Book Review: Freakonomics

Posted by mikeberry | Agile Executives,Book Reviews,Leadership,Strategy & Portfolio Management | Thursday 22 November 2007 2:48 am

I just read Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

This New York Times bestseller is an analytical exploration into social cause and affect.  Using analytics, Levitt shows how he was able to detect administrative cheating in the Chicago school districts, prove that sumo-wrestling is fixed, and suggested which baby names will be most popular in 2015.

I can’t say enough good about this book.  It was compelling to read, and a great mind-opener about the value of the relatively-new field of business analytics.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Posted by mikeberry | Agile Executives,Book Reviews,Leadership,SDLC Management,Strategy & Portfolio Management | Thursday 22 November 2007 2:12 am

I just finished reading Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.  This is an excellent book that examins the dynamics of making things happen inside of a corporation.

Bossidy and Charan make a case for needing the right people, the right strategy, and the right operations in place to successfully grow a company.  They further their case by suggesting that there is a fundamental problem in business management where executives mistakenly think execution is a tactical aspect of business, and should be delegated.  They suggest this idea is completely wrong and that executives need to shoulder the task of execution at their levels.

They suggest that every business executive team should ask themselves how the company is executing and what accounts for any gap between expectations and management’s performance.

I found two very practical elements from reading this book.   The first is the importance of reality.  Good managers seek reality, and encourage their direct reports, and peers to be as realistic as possible.

The second element is an elaborate description for conducting an effective strategy review.

If your department or company is contemplating a new strategy or a new major directive, this book is a must read.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Value Innovation Portfolio Management

I Just finished reading Value Innovation Portfolio Management: Achieving Double-digit Growth Through Customer Value, by Sheila Mello, Wayne Mackey, Ronald Lasser, and Richard Tait.

This book discusses implementing corporate project portfolio management by focusing on insight gained from your customers as to what they value.  I like this because I agree with their premise.  They call it the VIP approach to Portfolio Management.

This group of authors is a consultancy which has developed a methodology for gathering customer insight and applying it to their clients organizations strategy plans.

One novel offering that suggest is that while most of the industry is using bubble-charts to express strategy dynamics, they suggest using a radar-chart instead because it compares more than three axis.

The book goes on to discuss various portfolio “models” for understanding customer value in product development including Grounded, Relevant, Intentional, Optimized, Measured, Supported, Actionable, Fortified, Dynamic, and  Sustainable models.

I enjoyed reading the book and found the most valuable part of it to be their model of gaining customer insight.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Secrets of Great Rainmakers

Posted by mikeberry | Agile Executives,Book Reviews,Strategy & Portfolio Management | Thursday 15 November 2007 6:48 pm

Secrets of Great Rainmakers: The Keys to Success and Wealth is short sales book by Jeffrey J. Fox.   They say in life that we are all sales-persons, so books like this are good to read every so often.

Fox’s book is rare in that he has interviewed many “rainmakers” and taken their personal philosophies and stories and complied them into this book.   He discusses many topics including “Heed the first Buy Signal” and “Killer Sales Questions #1 and #2.”

Most touching to me was his chapter on Paperboys.  It seems the majority of the rainmakers and highly successful people he interviewed had in common a first job as a paperboy.  He said, if you have to hire two equal candidates, but one had a paper-route in their youth, and the other did not–hire the paperboy.  This made me feel good because I come from a family of paperboys.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere

Posted by mikeberry | Agile Executives,Book Reviews,Leadership,SDLC Management | Thursday 15 November 2007 6:34 pm

How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication, by Larry King, is a fun, short book to read.

Larry did a service to the public by writing this book and elaborating on some guiding principles that have helped him succeed in his career of–well, talking.

Novel among his concepts is the premise that successful people are good talkers and good talkers are successful people.  I can’t think of a more appropriate industry than IT to be reminded that we need to improve our speaking skills.

Larry’s stories transcend many areas of life: from managing people, to interviewing for a job, to public speaking, to talking your way out of the principal’s office–Larry has a story for everyone in this book.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Integrating Agile Development in the Real World

Hooray, another book on Agile Development!

In Integrating Agile Development in the Real World, Peter Schuh explains in depth how to get your team to adopt the Agile Development Model.

Schuh covers several Agile Metholodogies including the problems to watch out for during the process.

I do have to say, this book seemed like a “whole bunch of everything” and so I didn’t feel, after reading it, that I was really any more informed about Agile Development.

I would recommend the book for a group just being introduced to the Agile Development Model.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Optimizing Corporate Portfolio Management

Posted by mikeberry | Book Reviews,Leadership,SDLC Management,Strategy & Portfolio Management | Thursday 15 November 2007 6:17 pm

I finished reading Optimizing Corporate Portfolio Management: Aligning Investment Proposals with Organizational Strategy, by Anad Sanwal.  I mentioned in a previous post that this book’s forward was written by Gary L. Crittenden, CFO of CitiCorp, and a friend of mine.

In his detailing of the evolution of Corporate Portfolio Management at American Express, Sanwal makes a great case for the need for CPM in any corporation.

He explains how real strategy is linked to investment, and how investment is really any discretionary income a corporation spends.

He presents a four-step process for implementing CPM, and in the latter part of the book, gives case studies from many large U.S. organizations that have successfully implemented CPM.

I found this book an excellent read, and a must for anyone studying the relatively new disipline of Corporate Portfolio Management.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a TEAM

Posted by mikeberry | Agile Executives,Book Reviews,Leadership,ScrumMaster,SDLC Management | Thursday 15 November 2007 6:07 pm

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, written by Patrick Lencioni, he discusses–well, five dysfunctions of a team.

Lencioni’s style with his books seem to be a sort of fable-story-type narrative in the first part, and then real meat in the latter part.  I have to confess I skipped about half of the fable stuff, but found the meat at the back to be very interesting.

The five dysfunctions he examines are:

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

Being a single guy, I could most readily identify with #3, Lack of Commitment.  And the more I think about it, all of these dysfunctions could be more-or-lesss applied to dating.

His book comes complete with a team-assessment worksheet, and directions on how to identify and overcome these five dysfunctions.  A good read for any manager.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: The Tipping Point

Posted by mikeberry | Agile Executives,Book Reviews,Product Owner,Strategy & Portfolio Management | Thursday 15 November 2007 5:57 pm

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell, is an insightful book that discusses factors that cause market surge.

Gladwell points out the two phenomenons that seem to primarily be market catalyst factors:

  1. One high-profile, highly-connected individual’s public endorsement
  2. A critical-mass buildup of interest

Gladwell suggests people like Oprah Winfrey can have great power in markets, and sites her single negative market-shaking comment about the U.S. beef industry back in the 80’s as an example of such dynamics.

I found the Tipping Point to be an inspiring read and highly recommend it, especially to the marketing types.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Blink

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell, is an inspiring book that encourages us to “trust” ourselves and our intuition.

Gladwell talks about several interesting documented situations where seemingly factual information purported to suggest one reality, but an intervening expert just “knew” something wasn’t right and–with further research–was able to bring the real facts to light.

I enjoyed reading this book and it reminded me of all of the amazing women around me that seem have this gift, inherently.  Now that I think about it,  Gladwell was probably writing this book just for men.

Mike J Berry

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