Tag Archives: book summary

Aligning Ferret (by Swapna Kishore and Rajesh Naik) is now available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook

Aligning Ferret Book Cover
Aligning Ferret: How an Organization Meets Extraordinary Challenges (a business novel) by Swapna Kishore and Rajesh Naik has been published (at last :)) as a Kindle eBook on Amazon.

 

Click here to buy or view details on Amazon.com (or on Amazon.in).

 

About the Book

Aligning Ferret is a business novel (in the style of The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt) that uses an engrossing story to illustrate the implementation of organizational strategy, performance alignment, and people management in a fictitious, but realistically portrayed organization.

The story is narrated by Sunil Chinnappa (Sunny), a manager at a Bangalore-based software firm, Ferret. Sunil has just completed the implementation of world-class processes to deliver high-quality software at Ferret. But his self-congratulatory mood is cut short when Jim, the COO of the firm that owns Ferret, blasts Ferret for poor performance and threatens it with closure.

 

Here is an excerpt from the book:

“Ferret revenue and profits are totally off target,” says Jim. “And I can’t see your plans.”
“Plans?” My boss, Rajiv, looks stunned. “You have project-wise data and—”
“Plans, Rajiv. Overall plans, like your direction of growth, the sort of projects you’ll execute, and how much of our outsourced work you’ll undertake.” Jim sounds irritated.
Rajiv’s forehead creases. “We’ve improved our processes. Our focus is to execute PTI work better and—”
“Really? Ferret handles only 5% of our outsourced IT work.” Jim’s voice is sharp. “We acquired you to reduce our costs but we still have to use other IT vendors—expensive ones. If that’s all you can execute—”
“Jim—” Rajiv wipes his brow.
“I may acquire another firm in India or China instead of using Ferret.”

[Intrigued already? Click here to view details/ buy on Amazon. or Amazon.in 🙂 ]

Through Aligning Ferret, you will participate in Ferret’s effort to achieve the extraordinary growth Jim demands of Ferret. You will see how, led by Sunny, the managers at Ferret learn and apply relevant concepts, models and frameworks. They focus on performance management systems and on competencies to achieve overambitious targets. Models/ concepts they consider include strategy maps, Balanced Scorecard, and People CMM®. You will see the managers handle this strategy-alignment related effort in addition to coping with ongoing project deadlines, high attrition rates, and ongoing glitches and conflicts.

An aligned organization knows its objectives and focuses on achieving them. Strategy and alignment are not confined to top honchos deciding policy in boardrooms. All employees need to understand these concepts to work effectively within the organizational framework. Aligning Ferret’s engrossing and realistic story makes strategy, alignment, performance management, and related concepts a quick grasp for readers.

[To jump to Amazon and check the book out, click here]

We had released the paperback version of this book some time ago. Many readers had suggested that we also release a eBook version, but we got busy with other stuff, and hey, we wanted to first sell off the paperback copies :).

The book (paperback version) was well-received and perceived as useful by many readers, sometimes in ways that were unexpected / unintended! Most readers could relate the story to their own lives, to situations they have encountered, and to people they work with (including unreasonable bosses!). See comments from over sixty readers here.

The book was also reviewed in the media (magazines, journals, etc.). You may check out these review comments here.

This book has been successfully used by organizations as a supplementary reading to their Leadership Development Programs.

Aligning Ferret is also listed under “references” in The People CMM: A Framework for Human Capital Management (2nd Edition) (This book is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.in)

We have made some changes from the paperback version.

  • The consolidation exercises that were at the end of each chapter (in the paperback) have been moved in the eBook to an Appendix; this maintains the story flow, while the exercises remain available to readers who want to think more about the concepts covered in the book.
  • We have also tweaked some words and phrases to make the story more accessible for readers outside India.
  • Since this is an eBook format, we have been able to include hyperlinks for navigation within the book.

Here are some details, if you want to get a copy of the book:

[By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.]

Aligning Ferret Book Cover
Title: Aligning Ferret: How an Organization Meets Extraordinary Challenges

Authors: Swapna Kishore and Rajesh Naik

Publishing Date: Kindle Edition: May 2013 [Earlier Paperback in 2008]

Language: English

ASIN: B00CZA94XC

Available at: Amazon.com and Amazon.com.

 

[By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.]

You can also view a book trailer below:

Please feel free to to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available.
You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here. To get email alerts for new posts, click here to subscribe.

My List of Books for Implementing People CMM®

I am often asked – “which book should I use for understanding People CMM®?” I have, on several occasions, provided names of different books related to topics under discussion. So, this time when someone asked me, I decided to create a comprehensive list of books and articles that I have found useful.

I have over time referred many books, and the list below is a combination that I found useful to get more insights into generic and some specific aspects of the model.

The list is not a result of a comprehensive survey and evaluation. There are likely to be other books that are better for specific topics; and a different combination of books may work as well or better.

Anyway, here goes:
PCMM Book Cover“The People CMM® (Second Edition): A Framework for Human Capital Management” by Bill Curtis, William Hefley, and Sally Miller. Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in and Flipkart-India .

Well,  if you want to understand the model, you need a copy of the definitive book. Without this book, other books will provide fragmented insights and will not make holistic sense. And if you are serious about understanding or implementing the model, I suggest that you get a printed version in addition to downloading a free softcopy pdf version (from SEI/ CMMI Institute site), for quick searches of specific topics and keywords.

PCMM Book of Rajesh NaikDIVERSION: You can see an image of my dog-eared copy of the paperback version. It has been with me since 2003 (an older edition). It has witnessed (if books can witness :-)) many appraisals (both pre-SCAMPI as well as SCAMPI), and many training courses. If you get really close to the book, you can smell Dalian, Manila, Riga, Bratislava, London, Colombo, Mauritius, Bangkok, Pittsburg, Austin, and many Indian cities – Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, NCR, Hyderabad, Pune, Indore, and Mysore. There are stains on different pages – coffee, tea, cranberry preserve, sambhar, apple juice – you get the picture. Someday, I hope it acquires a historic and antique value; until then I will continue to use it (and also accumulate more history :-)).

Other books that I found useful:

Human Resource Champions Cover
1) “Human Resource Champions” by David Ulrich provides an approach to HR that shifts the focus from activities to be done to outcomes to achieve. The book helped me to look at HR as a business partner with an enhanced role as a strategic player, administrative expert, employee champion, and change agent.
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart-India.

From the Ground UP Cover
2) “From the Ground Up” by Edward Lawler III provides six principles for organizational transformation. I found it very useful for handling the change management that People CMM® implementation requires.
Available at Amazon.com,Amazon.in, and Flipkart-India.

Competitive Advantage Cover
3) “Competitive Advantage Through People” by Jeffrey Pfeffer explores how effective people management practices enable organizations to achieve superior performance, by using examples of successful companies that treat their workforce as “assets/ investments” instead of “costs/ expenses”.
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart-India.

Balanced Scorecard Cover
4) “The Balanced Scorecard” by Robert Kaplan and David Norton. I found it useful for process areas of Performance Management and Organizational Performance Alignment.
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart-India.

Strategy Maps Cover
5) “Strategy Maps”, once again by Robert Kaplan and David Norton, helps me in generating ideas for the process area Organizational Performance Alignment.
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart-India.

Competence at Work Cover
6) “Competence At Work” by Lyle Spencer and Signe Spencer is the classic for setting up a competency framework and competency assessments. I keep going back to this book for the process areas – Competency Analysis and Competency Development.
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart-India.

HR Scorecard Cover
7) “The HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy, and Performance” by Dave Ulrich, Mark A. Huselid, Brian E. Becker provides the framework for setting up a robust measurement program for tracking performance and effectiveness of HR/ People management in organizations. This book has been useful to me to set up the “measurement” related practices of People CMM® across many process areas.
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart-India.

Workforce Scorecard Cover
8) “The Workforce Scorecard: Managing Human Capital To Execute Strategy” by Mark Huselid, Brian Becker, and Richard Beatty – this book (in addition to the HR Scorecard book) gave me more insights in designing effective metrics for People CMM® implementation. The book also enlightened me on how behaviors, competencies, and culture impact organizational performance.
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart-India.

Designing Team Based Organizations Cover
9) “Designing Team-Based Organizations: New Forms for Knowledge Work” by Susan Albers Mohrman, Susan G. Cohen, Allan M. Mohrman Jr. This book provided me greater understanding of the process areas – Empowered Wokgroups, Workgroup Development and (to some extent) Competency Integration.
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart-India.

Workforce of One Cover
10) “Workforce of One” by Susan Cantrell and David Smith enabled me to look at the aspect of customization of HR practices to meet the requirements of multiple segments of people. This is now increasingly possible because of the availability of automation for administering flexible policies. You can read a detailed review of this book on another post here .
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart-India.

Here are two papers (not books) that have been extremely useful to me, in addition to the list above (besides, they are “classics”) .

  • The Core Competence of the Corporation by C K Prahalad, and Gary Hamel (Amazon-Digital version)
  • Fighting the War for Talent is Hazardous to Your Organization’s Health by Jeffrey Pfeffer (Free Download here).

This is my list  for People CMM®. Please use the comment/ reply facililty to add your own list of useful books for understanding/ implementing the model – a small write-up on what the book addresses and how it is useful in the context of People CMM® will help other readers.

Some book reviews uploaded on the same blog:

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here. To get email alerts for new posts, click here to subscribe.

Book Review – “Service Management” by James Fitzsimmons and Mona Fitzsimmons

In the early days of CMMI® – SVC, around 4 years ago, I purchased this book on the recommendation of my colleague Chinmay Pradhan . The money and time spent with this book have been rewarding. I now strongly recommend it to anyone who asks me for a book to understand the services context for implementation of CMMI® for Services.

Some relevant information about the book:

  • The book is designed as a comprehensive standard text for management students in service oriented industries.
  • It has been used as reference book for many years – the first edition is dated 1994. The book has been updated frequently and has survived almost 2 decades.
  • The book (5th Edition) has 3 parts and 17 Chapters.
  • The Chapters on “The Nature of Services” and “Service Strategy” (in Part 1) are especially useful to structure your approach to a service oriented organization.
  • There are interesting Chapters (in Part 2) dedicated to development of new services, service quality, and continuous improvement.
  • Part 3 titled Managing Service Operations has a lot of material devoted to demand forecasting, capacity management, managing queues, and service supply relationship – this section is useful for approaching the high maturity practices of the CMMI®.
  • Concepts are supported with diagrams, tables, examples and case studies from a wide range of service industries. The range is so vast that based on reading the book, it is easy to extend the concepts to a completely new service industry/ organization.
  • Each chapter ends with questions for the readers to work on (and consolidate their understanding of the concepts).
  • The book may not be suitable in a Kindle version (I think the big illustrations and tables in the book are not suitable currently for the Kindle format).
  • The print version (5th Edition) that I have is close to 600 pages – just slightly smaller than the A4 size – so it is pretty big to carry around.

I recommend this book very strongly to:

  • Consultants, trainers, auditors and appraisers working with CMMI® for Services (CMMI® – SVC)
  • Process improvement professionals in any service oriented organization, especially those supporting the implementation of CMMI® for Services (CMMI® – SVC)
  • Executive management of service oriented organizations

If you belong to one the above category of folks, in addition to reading the book, you will find it useful to have a copy for reference on a more constant basis.
The book has multiple editions (the 8th edition seems to be the latest) and multiple versions/ configurations (hardcover/paperback, with student CD/ without student CD) – the price varies significantly based on the edition, versions and configurations. My review is based on a paperback copy of the 5th edition, without the student CD. If you are planning to purchase a copy, keep in mind that the price is dependent on some of the factors just discussed.

About the authors

James A Fitzsimmons is a BSE in industrial engineering (Univ of Michigan), an MBA (Western Michigan Univ) and a PhD (UCLA). He has consulted several organizations, including large government bodies. He has edited and co-authored many books and journals.

Mona J Fitzsimmons is a graduate from the University of Michigan, did her graduate work in geology. She has been a teacher and an author. Her activities/ interests include wildlife rehabilitation, environmental issues and health care.

Here are some details, if you want to get a copy of the book:

Service Management Book Cover
Title: Service Management: Operations, Strategy, Information Technology

Author: James A Fitzimmons and Mona J Fitzsimmons

Publishing Date: Initially around 1994, Currently 8th Edition

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart

Other book reviews uploaded on the same blog:

Please feel feel to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here. To get email alerts for new posts, click here to subscribe.

You don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook

Till a few months ago I had not registered the fact that I could read ebooks on other devices (like my laptop) and didn’t need a Kindle device. This was in spite of my wife’s constantly telling me so for years.

Last month, though, the coin dropped and I took aside an hour to set up my laptop to read Kindle ebooks. Then I felt that it may be worthwhile to have a blog entry on this topic because I suspect there may be a few (or many?) others like me who dismiss the very idea of reading Kindle ebooks because they don’t have a Kindle device. So I invited my wife, Swapna Kishore, to write this post for AlignMentor

[Brief intro: Swapna Kishore is an author of technical books and speculative fiction. She also maintains a comprehensive website to support dementia daregivers in India. She blogs here.

Over to Swapna…

Read Kindle ebooks within minutes on your laptop, mobile, or tablet – by Swapna Kishore

The world of instant information is just a few keystrokes away now because we can buy and start reading ebooks within minutes –  the latest books from across the world. Amazon, for example, has a vast number of ebooks in its Kindle store.

But wait…are you availing this opportunity? Or have you brushed it aside saying, “I don’t have a Kindle (device).”

Because, you see, you don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook. You can read Kindle ebooks on your laptop, mobile, tablet, or even in your browser. It takes just a few minutes enable any of these devices to read Kindle eBooks. Really.

A quick way to understand this is

  • A Kindle e-reader is a physical device that you can hold in your hands. You can use it to read documents in a number of formats. You can read Kindle ebooks. You can also read other stuff (PDF files, DOC files, etc., depending on which Kindle e-reader you have). You can also do other tasks, but that’s irrelevant for our discussion.
  • A Kindle book (ebook) is an electronic counterpart of a book. It is the digital version of the book, a file using a particular format. You can read this file on any device that can interpret the format and display the content (the book). A Kindle ebook can be read on the Kindle e-reader device.  And if you install the appropriate Kindle Reader App (software) on another device, a Kindle book can also be read on that device.

So, if you want to read a Kindle ebook on your laptop, it’s easy – install the app for your version of Windows or Mac, and then use it to read ebooks. The process is the same for other devices; Kindle ebooks can be read on your laptop, smartphone, iPad or Android device, or even your browser.  What’s more, you can read the same book on multiple devices. Read it on your laptop. Then, if you are in the car (and someone else is driving it) and you want to continue, you can resume the reading on your iPad or iPhone or Blackberry. You can even synchronize to pick up reading at the point you left it. It’s that simple.

The download links and procedures for the required apps are available at the Amazon site. So all you need to do is:

  • Decide which device(s) you want to read your ebook on (your iPad? your Android device? your laptop? one device? more devices?)
  • For each device, download and install the relevant free Kindle reading app. Apps are free, and downloadable from Amazon (for Kindle ebooks). Check the Kindle section on Amazon for “Free Reading Apps”(currently here.)
  • Test it out:
    • Buy a Kindle ebook and make it available on the device(s) you want to read it on (using wireless or download and USB transfer). For testing the app, you can “buy” a free ebook: Check for Kindle ebooks, using Sort –> Price Low to High
    • Start the “Kindle reader” on that device and read the book

Now that your device(s) is set up to read Kindle ebooks, next time you can just buy the ebook, deliver/ download it to the device, and start reading. You can also read a sample of a Kindle book before you buy it. Every Kindle ebook is just a few clicks (and a few rupees/ dollars) away.

I have been using my laptop to read Kindle ebooks for over two years. In fact, I read ebooks from all ebook vendors on my laptop (they all have ways for you to read their ebooks on multiple devices). I bought a Kindle e-reader some months ago, and I use that sometimes, but even now, I often read ebooks on my laptop. (I can check my email and Facebook on the side, see 🙂 Or even draft a blog post like this one 🙂

And now, just in case you didn’t feel like reading the above:Kindle Device Schematic

Please feel free to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available at the top of this article/ post.

By the way, if all this has made you feel that you need to seriously consider a Kindle device, then click here.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author :-).

Book reviews uploaded on the same blog:


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here. To get email alerts for new posts, click here to subscribe.

Book Review – “Fooled by Randomness” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I picked up Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, on the recommendation of a mathematician (Vipul Naik, my son). I was expecting a heavy treatise on economics and statistics. It was however a very engrossing book written in a lucid and conversational style, with historical events and everyday situations used freely to provide insights.

Here is the book summary/ key insights (that I picked up from the book):

1)      Human beings are wired in a way that they are unable to intuitively handle randomness and chance.

2)      We are adept at explaining everything through a cause-effect; because we just can’t handle uncertainty. And a statistical correlation does not necessarily mean one causes the other.

3)      Ignoring rare events (outliers) in building prediction models is fooling ourselves – rare events are a part of the process and environment, and their impact is rarely understood or considered by people.

4)      We try to explain extraordinary successes as the result of brilliant strategy or business model or formula or leadership skills or intelligence; while it is often just dumb luck. This is more so of domains like stock trading, marketing, and running a business. We try to learn from and emulate the “winners”, without much success ourselves (by trying to implement the so-called strategies of successful people). Basically, according to the book, many of the winners are just lucky fools :-).

5)      Nice symmetrical probability distributions cannot be expected of any human endeavor (symmetrical distributions may be used to understand controlled situations like gambling – toss of a coin, or rolling of a dice). When we simplify probability distributions and approximate them to neat curves, the results that we get are unreliable.

6)      Though Monte Carlo simulations are looked down upon (“that is cheating, it is not statistics!”) by purists, it is still be the best way to model complex, real situations and understand the potential randomness of the outcomes, and can be used for informed decision making.

7)      Past performance cannot be blindly used to predict future performance. Hence, we should not overestimate the accuracy of our beliefs just because we have been successful in the past, we should reexamine our beliefs based on logic, and always have a backup plan.

One of issues with the book is that it lacks structure and tends to jump from topic to topic. The tone is also snobbish and contemptuous at places, and it may make some people (who are secretly think that their success may be attributable to luck :-)) annoyed or even angry.

The author Nassim Nicholas Taleb is Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute. He has been a mathematical trader, essayist, philosopher, and researcher. He specializes in understanding uncertainty, luck, probability, knowledge, and decision making. Taleb has been described as a dissident thinker, maverick, irreverent, iconoclastic, and unconventional.

Another book by Taleb in a similar vein is The Black Swan – this is an earlier book, and again very interesting to read. Taleb has also authored AntiFragile, The Bed of Procrustes and Dynamic Hedging.

I recommend this book very highly for anyone involved in high maturity implementation of the CMMI®/ People CMM® models.

For people who are looking for quick-fix templates and control chart macros, this book is not for you (as if high maturity practices can be implemented using quick-fix solutions :-).

Here are some details of the book, in case you want to get your hands on it:

By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.

Fooled By Randomness Book Cover

 

Title: Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Publishing Date: First Version Around 2001

Publisher: Random House/ Penguin

Available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart

Available as eBook in Amazon Kindle.

 

By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.

Please feel free to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available at the top of this article/ post.

Also, please add other insights that you may have got from the book, using the “comments” feature available at the top of this article/ post.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association.

Other book reviews uploaded on the same blog:


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here. To get email alerts for new posts, click here to subscribe.

Book Review – “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande

I had earlier read two engrossing books by Atul Gawande – Complications and Better. So when I saw The Checklist Manifesto while browsing in the neighborhood library, I decided to pick it up looking forward to an interesting read (some reviewers had strongly recommended it). The title also indicated that it may a good book to review for this weblog.

Well, I was partially right – it was suitable to post a review on this blog. So, here goes…

The main theme of the book/ book summary is as follows:

  • Over the years, many activities have become extremely complex.
  • Even experts struggle to master and remember all the tasks they have to perform.
  • Use of checklists can minimize human errors of oversight. In many cases this it can improve the performance significantly.
  • Use of checklists can also help the experts focus on the difficult, tricky parts of a situation, rather than worry about the mundane activities.
  • There is need to create better checklists, organize them for easy use and ensure that they are used.

The author uses examples from multiple industries and situations. The best ones are from hospitals and medical emergencies (Dr Gawande is a surgeon :-)). There are other examples from the airline industry (where pilots use checklists for normal as well as abnormal situations), construction industry, retail, and restaurants.

There is a whole chapter dedicated to research where the impact of the use of checklists in hospitals was studied. The research showed that there was a significant reduction in deaths (47% reduction) and major complications (36% reduction) for surgical patients. One interesting finding was that though only 80% of the hospital staff found the checklists useful, 93% of them said they would want a checklist to be used if they were themselves getting operated!

The book sometimes extends the concept of “checklist” beyond its normal usage. Here are a few examples of things that are treated under the concept of checklist in the book (though I believe they are different concepts, with their own place in “how to get things right”):

  • Preparing detailed project plans, dependencies, action items, schedules and list of deliverables (example of a building construction project)
  • Use of collaboration meetings (of experts) to handle non-routine situations (e.g., a building floor developing unforeseen problems)
  • Empowerment for doing something extraordinary (how Wal-Mart employees went beyond their formal authority to help people affected by Hurricane Katrina)
  • Use of focus, expertise and wits (how a pilot saved lives by crash landing on Hudson river in 2009 – by focusing on flying the plane, not on using a checklist!)

In trying to bring everything under the umbrella of “checklists”, the author dilutes the concept and utility of checklists as well as other equally important concepts of detailed planning, collaboration, empowerment, dedication, competence and focus. Maybe the title “The Process Manifesto” would have been more apt.

For people who are already convinced about the use of checklists, procedures, plans, collaboration meetings, etc., this book can provide you with interesting examples to relate to process skeptics in your organization. It can also provide process trainers with interesting case studies to relate to the class. You may also consider gifting this book to colleagues who resist the use of formal processes – the book is an easy read and is able to hold the reader’s attention reasonably well.

If you are looking for readymade checklists that will help you reach some level in CMMI®/ People CMM®, then this book is not for you :-).

Those who have read Gawande’s earlier books – Complications and Better may find The Checklist Manifesto a bit disappointing – it is not as engrossing as the earlier two. This is possibly because the earlier books focused primarily on hospitals, medicine and healthcare based scenarios, where Gawande has accumulated loads of experience. And in Checklist, he provides examples from other industries (aircraft manufacture, real estate, retail stores, restaurants, and so on) where he may not have had the same level of familiarity and insight.

Here are some details of the book, in case you want to get your hands on it:

By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.

Book Cover ImageBook Title: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Author: Atul Gawande

ISBN-10: 1846683130

ISBN-13: 978-1846683138

Publishing Date: Jan 2010

Publisher: Profile Books

Available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart

Available as eBook in Amazon Kindle.

By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.

Other book reviews uploaded on the same blog:


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here. To get email alerts for new posts, click here to subscribe.

Book Review – “Workforce of One” by Susan Cantrell and David Smith

I was scanning the shelves of a book lending library, when I came across this book – the title intrigued me, so I picked it up and browsed through it. Based on the title, I had imagined an extraordinary organization of one person (me!) – it turned out to be something else, but interesting enough :-). Anyway, I borrowed the book, read it, and here is the review.

The main theme of the book/ book summary is as follows:

  • In the last few years, retail customer experience has been highly customized by internet based enterprises (e.g., Amazon, Netflix, Dell) with a great degree of success.
  • Employee experience too can be customized, to provide an environment to motivate each employee to deliver his/ her best for the organization.
  • This is required because people’s expectations have changed due to their experience as customers, because other organizations are already doing it, because it enables higher employee retention, engagement and productivity, and because it increases the ability to attract high potential employees. “One size fits all” is no longer a desirable approach.
  • Customization has become feasible because of the variety of tools and technology that are increasingly available.

According to the book, workforce practices have evolved from chaotic, ad-hoc, person-specific, unstructured, unfair systems to something that is monolithic, over-controlled, one-size-fits-all, and over-standardized. And now it is time to make the systems more flexible, tailored and customized.

The authors propose a four pronged approach to this customization, comprising:

  • Segment the workforce on dimensions like geography, tenure, career level, role, age, etc. to understand the requirements and needs of different segments.
  • Offer modular choices, in areas like compensation, working hours, learning methods, working place, etc. The modularity ensures structure and equity while providing flexibility.
  • Define broad and simple rules, instead of defining very elaborate policies and procedures. This will permit flexibility while ensuring that the values of organization are adhered to.
  • Foster employee-defined personalization by making people aware and enabling managers to guide employees to make appropriate choices.

The book covers multiple areas of people practices that can be customized. Some of them are rewards and recognition, learning, work place, work time, career growth pace and choices, assignment mix, performance goal setting and feedback mechanisms, compensation mix, benefits, and work place tools/ technology.

The authors use examples from organizations like Best Buy, Microsoft, Accenture, Procter and Gamble, Deloitte, The Container Store, Royal Bank of Scotland and others.

As a reader, I found some of the examples (illustrating the concept of customization) as being trivial. For example, the authors use the fact that a multi-national organization provides company transport to employees in Hyderabad (while it does not do so elsewhere in the world) as an example of customization (geographical segmentation). To me, this is like saying that the company follows Indian labor laws in India :-).  Since the organization has set up their office far away from the city’s residential areas and the city does not have adequate public transport, there is no choice for the company but to arrange transport for the employees.

The problem with trivial examples is that on reading the examples, many people will go, “yeah, we do that, actually we started that 10 years ago”. And miss the whole concept of the customization approach.

The book is easy to read and grasp and proposes a powerful concept worth investigating. Definitely worth reading for senior HR folks and CXOs (just ignore the trivial examples :-)).

Here are some details of the book:

By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook

Front Cover - Workforce Of OneBook Title: Workforce of One: Revolutionizing Talent Management Through Customization

Authors: Susan M. Cantrell, David Smith

ISBN: 1422147584; ISBN-13: 9781422147580

Binding: Hardcover

Publishing Date: Nov 2010

Publisher: Harvard Business School Publishing

Available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart

Available as eBook in Amazon Kindle.

By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.

How do the concepts covered in the book align with the People CMM®? Well, that is the subject of another post, some other day! :-).

Other book reviews uploaded on the same blog:


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here. To get email alerts for new posts, click here to subscribe.