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ISBN 9780875847474 Published Sept. 1996
Harvard Business School Press
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Posted Oct. 28, 2008 4:00 a.m. by dylan
In Uncategorized - 800 CEO Read Blog
The Arizona Republic printed a list of recommended finance and business titles from Jeffrey L. Coles'--finance department chair at Arizona State University. They are:
Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein, John Wiley & Sons, 1998 Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies by Tim Koller, Marc Goedhart & David Wessels, John Wiley & Sons, 2005 Irrational Exuberance by Robert Schiller, Currency, 2006 Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors by Michael Porter, Free Press, 1998 Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China by John Pomfret, Holt Rinehart and Winston, 2007
Coles sneaks in a sixth suggestion "for humor and cheer in our turbulent times," Scott Adams' Still Pumped From Using the Mouse.
Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value by Bill George, Jossey-Bass, 2004 Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls by Noel Tichy & Warren Bennis, Portfolio, 2007 Leading Change by John Kotter, Harvard Business School Press, 1996 The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All by Michael Useem, Three River Press, 1999 What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom about Management by Jeffrey Pfeffer, Harvard Business School Press, 2007 Leadership Passages: The Personal and Professional Transitions That Make or Break a Leader by David L. Dotlich, James L. Noel & Norman Walker, Jossey-Bass, 2004 Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution by Michael Hammer & James Champy, HarperBusiness, 2004 The Practice of Management by Peter Drucker, HarperCollins, 2006 Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators by Patrick Lencioni, Jossey-Bass, 2005 A Leader's Legacy by James Kouzes & Barry Posner, Jossey-Bass, 2006
Jack Covert Selects - A Sense of Urgency
Posted Sept. 12, 2008 5:53 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
A Sense of Urgency by John Kotter, Harvard Business School Press, 196 pages, $22.00 Hardcover, 190 pages, September 2008, ISBN 9781422179710
In 1997, Harvard Business School Press released the best book on change that I have ever read, entitled Leading Change. Authored by Professor John Kotter, it is so good that Todd and I included it in our book, The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, due out in February of 2009. In Leading Change, Kotter gives the reader an eight-stage process needed for a successful change initiative.
In the decade since that book's release, his audiences asked him time and again about the first stage of that process, "establishing a sense of urgency," and how to accomplish it. Change cannot be accomplished without urgency, and A Sense of Urgency was written to answer that difficult problem. As Kotter states:
The Strategy [is to] create action that is exceptionally alert, externally oriented, relentlessly aimed at winning, making some progress each and every day, and constantly purging low value-added activities--all by focusing on the heart and not just the mind.
The author proceeds to lay out four sets of tactics to help you undertake creating this sense of urgency within your organization. The stories Kotter uses to illustrate these tactics are generally stories you haven't heard before, like that of the successful grocery chain that didn't notice the change going on around them until it was too late. This story helps to illustrate Kotter's first tactic of "bringing the outside in." If you are lucky enough to have had "historical success," it can lead to a "we know best" culture, which can insulate organizations from the outside world. Another issue is with a relatively strong position compared to others; you have a tendency not to look outside for disruptions. Finally with success often comes size, which adds to the lack of looking outside.
One of the reasons I like John Kotter and his teaching style is that he knows the job is never done. Let's assume you've created a sense of urgency and had a change initiative succeed. How easy is it going to be to keep a sense of urgency strong after that initial success? Well, it's not easy, and Professor Kotter knows it. The final chapter of the book covers this problem.
The ultimate solution to the problem of urgency dropping after successes is to create the right culture. This is especially true as we move from a world in which change is mostly episodic to a world in which change is continuous.
This concise, easy-to-read book, written by one of the premier minds on the subject, will be the perfect roadmap to successful change, both for now and for the long-term.
Welcome Back Kotter
Posted Sept. 2, 2008 6:11 a.m. by dylan
In Uncategorized - 800 CEO Read Blog
Today marks the release of John Kotter's latest book, A Sense of Urgency, by Harvard Business School Press. Kotter has written about urgency before... Raising urgency is the first of his eight-steps for successful organizational change. The feedback he has received on the topic convinced him that this critically important step deserved a book of its own. He lays out exactly what led him to that decision and what he intends to accomplish with the book in the first chapter:
For the past thirty-five years I have been studying what people actually do to help their organizations perform well, no matter how difficult the circumstances. My work has led me to this topic and this book. In the pages that follow, you will find dozens of stories about urgency, complacency, and false urgency. I will describe a strategy and four sets of tactics I have seen people use to create a strong sense of urgency and an unexpectedly high level of performance--with benefits flowing to investors, employees, national economies, and their own careers.
To learn more, check out the video and read the conversation with the author below.
If you'd like to catch up on Kotter's previous books before diving into this one, you're in luck. We've gotten the band back together (as Todd eloquently put it) and relaunched InBubbleWrap for the day. Head on over and enter to win the John Kotter Library, including: Leading Change, The Heart of Change and John P. Kotter on What Leaders Really Do.
For many years, you have been teaching business people how to be change leaders. In A Sense of Urgency you identify the shifting nature of change. How does that affect the current business climate?
It used to be that companies experienced large scale changes--a large acquisition or a new corporate strategy--about once a year. I call that episodic change. Now this still exists, but it lives--as do we--in a world of continuous change. Companies are always shifting, evolving, and changing and small- and mid-size changes come at an almost ceaseless flow. In this current situation, being able to establish and sustain a true sense of urgency becomes an essential asset rather than a nice-to-have quality. Without it, taskforces underperform. Enterprises underperform. And people get hurt--sometimes badly.
How successful are organizations in creating and sustaining meaningful change?
Scarily, in doing my research, I found that 70 percent of large scale initiatives in companies failed or were not fully launched. Only 10 percent of the cases achieved what they set out to do--and in some cases overshot their expectations. In those ten, a similar formula was used in virtually all instances, and they all began with creating a sufficiently high sense of urgency among enough people to set the stage for making a challenging leap into some new direction.
What are some errors people make when they try to create change?
The single biggest error is that they do not create a high enough sense of urgency. When the urgency challenge is not handled well, even very capable people and resource-rich organizations can suffer greatly. You see this often in a company that has a history of being a market leader. There is a feeling that everything is just fine and nothing needs to change because they know what they are doing. But the world we live in keeps shifting and moving forward and a company can easily move from first to last just by believing they are successful. Complacency created by prosperity can blindside even the best managers.
What is false urgency and how can we stop it?
False urgency is even more insidious than complacency and just as common. In an organization suffering from false urgency, there is a great deal of energized action, but it's driven by fear, anger, and frustration and not a focused determination to win, and win as soon as is reasonably possible. With false urgency the action has a frantic feeling: running from meeting to meeting, producing volumes of paper, moving rapidly in circles, all with a dysfunctional orientation that often prevents people from exploiting key opportunities and addressing knowing problems. But, if you ask managers, they don't see the negative energy--they will always comment on how fast everyone is moving and how very busy everyone is. They will deny, and deny again, if you tell them it's not truly urgent.
How do you define true urgency?
When people have a true sense of urgency they think that action on critical issues is needed now, not eventually, not when it fits into a schedule. Now means making real progress every single day. This isn't about setting up more meetings and creating bigger teams. It's about really accomplishing something of value every single day. It means seeing the risks around you as opportunities rather than unobtainable challenges. You must spend your day moving forward--not just putting out fires left right and center. With complacency and false urgency, people spend their day looking inward. People infused with true urgency constantly scan the horizon around them--both inside and out--looking for information relevant to success and survival.
Wouldn't that high level of energy create burnout or undue stress?
Not at all. A true sense of urgency is a highly positive and focused force that doesn't create dangerous levels of stress. At least partly because it motivates people to relentlessly look for ways to rid themselves of chores that add little value to their organization but that clog their calendars and slow down needed action. People who are determined to move and win, now, simply do not waste time or add stress by engaging in irrelevant or business-as-usual activities.
This is the basic strategy that any person or organization can put into place to create a better, healthier, and more productive environment.
How do you create a heightened sense of urgency and then sustain it?
Well, you don't do it by appealing just to someone's sense of logic. You have to appeal to their hearts too, just as great leaders throughout the ages have won over the hearts and minds of people. Within that heart-head strategy there seem to be four sets of tactics that work best. First, use a variety of methods to help people better see the hazards and opportunities that are all around them--and incredibly people don't often see them. Second, become an urgency-beacon in the way you behave each and every day. The vast majority of people do not. Third, always look to see if there is an opportunity in a crisis to help increase urgency. And finally, confront the No--Nos--those people who hate change and are remarkably skilled at fostering both complacency and false urgency.
What about the future of urgency and change management?
Speed will only increase. A sense of urgency will only become more essential. It is not a luxury but a must have--a critical competitive advantage--and a humanitarian necessity for all workers. Sometimes in a work situation it is hard to clearly see this issue. But looking at some larger challenges helps us gain perspective. Think nationally and globally: climate change, terrorism, the monumental effects of China and India becoming developed nations, the ethical issues surrounding bioscience and the need for Social Security reform in the United States. Do we have a strong sense of urgency to deal with these issues? Remember, words are not the test. Action is the test. Furious activity and running and meetings and slick presentations are NOT the sign of true urgency. Alertness, movement, and leadership, now--and from many people, not a few--are the signs of true urgency. So where do we stand today? We can do better.
"The Modern Era's Second Worst Promulgator of Intelligence Reduction"
Posted March 21, 2008 5:00 a.m. by todd-sattersten
In The Company - 800 CEO Read Blog
The following is my letter to the editors of Fast Company Magazine on Elizabeth Spiers recent column in their publication. You can read Spiers column here. Kate wrote about it earlier in the week, and I couldn't let it pass either.
I write to provide a needed counterpoint to Elizabeth Spiers April 2008 Not So Fast column titled "Library of The Living Dead."
I will start where she ends, agreeing in fact with Spiers' ultimate conclusion: Business books are self-help, by their very definition. The implication that business books fall strictly into the "I'm OK, You're OK" segment of self-help is where Spiers and I diverge. A book publisher recently shared research with me that showed the number one reason people buy business books is to find a solution to a problem. Sitting at the educational crossroads between "I know nothing about this," and "Let's hire a consultant," business books contain a high value proposition for the twenty dollars and two hours spent. Not, as Spiers says, to abdicate responsibility for the choices they make. Instead, it takes a great deal of personal awareness to look for answers from those who offer experiential lessons in books.
The packaging of those lessons receives the majority of criticism in Ms. Spiers column and I am always dismayed by the problems pundits have with this aspect of the industry. Human civilization is built upon stories and when an author chooses a fable as the delivery device, the writer is making the lessons more accessible to a wider audience.
The "12-step-ification" is a crutch that bloggers, business magazines, and book publishers certainly use alike, in the same way celebrity authors are used to garner attention and sell product. This is simply product marketing through concreteness and social proof.
The bestseller list as a guide to the "best" in the category is just another form of social proof. My optimism for the category would bring me to highlight Gallup's research-based StrengthsFinder 2.0 or Jim Collins' insightful and wonderful written Good to Great as evidence that some books that make the bestseller list really deserve the title.
In the case of John Kotter, we have the benefit of choosing either his current top-selling fable, or his 1996 book "Leading Change," which has sold over a million copies. Both books tackle the same content, but offer options for the reader to choose his method of consumption.
Ms. Spiers overall indictment of the entire business book category is an easy mark and one that could be applied to any genre of media. Her elitism about what constitutes good reading compounds the problem further. While I can appreciate her hyperbole as a method to communicate some criticism about the genre, a more subtle treatment of the subject would, I believe, be more effective.
Beyond that, Fast Company is a magazine that has always supported business ideas. A simplistic column like Spiers' goes against the very DNA of your publication. The mantra "WORK IS PERSONAL" matches well with Thoreau's or Emerson's definition of self-help. The publication of this column leaves me wondering just how that mission has been served.
What is it about fables?
Posted July 17, 2007 11:18 a.m. by todd-sattersten
In Publishing Industry - 800 CEO Read Blog
The New York Times interviewed John Kotter yesterday and reported on his business fable Our Iceberg Is Melting. These numbers set the stage:
Since its release last September, "Iceberg" has sold some 224,000 copies in hardcover (Leading Change [his prior book] has sold more than a million copies in 10 years), and been translated into 10 languages, with 10 more foreign editions in the works.
When I reported on the Publisher Weekly best-seller numbers, Our Iceberg Is Melting was the surprise on the list. I had no idea the book was doing so well.
The idea for the fable version came from reader Holger Rathgeber. In preparing for a presentation, Rathgeber became inspired by the drawing on the cover of Leading Change. The picture shows penguins jumping from one iceberg to another, so Rathgeber had everyone create penguin masks from construction paper during the workshop. Rathgeber sent Kotter a sample of the materials and Kotter was immediately taken.
So, Kotter rewrote Leading Change as a fable with the penguins and sent a draft out to friends in 2004. Requests started to roll in for copies of the book. Kotter decided to self-publish and went on to sell 15,000 copies. Publisher St. Martin bought the rights and published it in 2006.
I have to tell you I don't understand the popularity of fables like this. They are meant to appeal to a large audience, and that is the trouble for me. The messages these book convey are too simplistic. I guess this leaves me in the minority given the success that many of these books have.
My only solace lies in the fact that since the mainstream release of "Iceberg", we have sold twice as many copies of Leading Change as we have the fable. I guess our customers want the full version as well.