October 31, 2007

Book Review - Managing Chaos and Complexity in Government

Managing Chaos and Complexity in Government: A New Paradigm for Managing Change, Innovation, and Organizational Renewal
L. Douglas Kiel
JF 1525 .C74 K54 1994

Kiel puts forward a new strategy for managing change in Government organizations. By studying the way that numerous government employees spent their time, he noticed both patterns and considerable unpredictability, much like those observed in the science of chaos theory. Here, he applies the same chaos theory to government organizations, arguing that it will better allow for flexibility, change, and continuous improvement. He begins with a description of government work environments today, focusing on the need for improved performance. He then depicts the changes that occur in government organizations and explains how difficult many of them are to manage. He puts forward his new view of government organizations, examining the patterns existing within the apparent chaos and suggesting how these might be managed and directed to improve organizational performance. Finally, he offers advice on how to create a "self-organizing government organization," and suggests the benefits and lessons that this offers for managers.

October 30, 2007

Book Review - Survival of the Savvy

Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success
Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman
HF 5386.5 .B73 2004

This is a book about office politics. The authors do not apologize for this reality, but instead provide tools for individuals to find their way through the web of reputations, influence and deception to succeed both personally and organizationally. The first part of the book describe the characteristics of political styles often found in the workplace, reveal the risks inherent in both styles, and counsel how to find balance using the right mix of traits and skills. The second part is a handbook of individual skills and tactics . These chapters show individuals how to develop behaviors and awarenesses that will help them improve their survival in the politicized workplace. The third part is aimed at leaders to help them better detect deception and scheming and to locate hidden pockets of power. Finally, the fourth part teaches these leaders how to build teams that have trust and savvy, and to use these networks to improve the position of the company.

Book Review - Choosing the Lesser Evil

Choosing the Lesser Evil: Understanding Decision Making in Humanitarian Aid NGOs
Liesbet Heyse
HV 553 .H49 2006

Heyse hopes to shed some light on the processes that non-Governmental organizations with humanitarian aid missions use. Her work is structured around two case studies: one organization which uses a medical perspective to providing humanitarian aid, and a second organization which has religious leanings and motivations behind its aid mission. Heyse begins with an overview of how the two organizations differently prioritize the aid missions that they select to become involved with. She puts forward several theoretical models of organizational decision-making and behavior, placing these broadly in the context of NGOs. She then examines both organizations in turn, teasing out their decision-making processes, work patterns, and organizational priorities. Finally, she compares the organizations directly, determining how they exemplify the theoretical models posited at the outset. This book may help to understand the sometimes competing priorities of NGOs and why outcomes of humanitarian aid and peacekeeping efforts may not measure up to organizational intentions.

October 29, 2007

Book Review - Tourism, Culture & Regeneration

Tourism, Culture, & Regeneration
Edited by Melanie K. Smith
G 156.5 .H47 T69 2007

This book focuses on the role of tourism in urban renaissance efforts. Several chapters at the beginning of this compilation address cultural planning in urban regeneration projects, the importance of creativity, and the importance of knowing the proper audience for whom new tourist attractions should be developed and marketed. Special attention is given to "mixed-use" tourist spaces and to ethno-tourism. The majority of the contributed essays, however, offer examples and case studies of successful urban programs focusing on tourist destinations. These lessons include usage of sports venues, cultural programs, celebrating natural wonders, and hosting special events.

Book Review - Talent IQ

Talent IQ: Identify your Company's Top Performers, Improve or Remove Underachievers, Books Productivity and Profit
Emmet C. Murphy
HD 38.2. M974 2007

In this book, Murphy builds on his earlier work, "Leadership IQ." He asserts that people who are talented, achievers, are those who become leaders. These individuals are developed and molded, however, not born. Murphy also asserts that the most important factor for success of an organization is filling it with talent, further developing their talent, and replacing them when necessary. This book is really intended for managers, instructing them how to identify acheivers, mentor them, and remove those who begin to undermine the organization. He stresses the importance of communication, especially to convey commitment of the manager to the subordinate and of the company to its customers, and believes that the responsibility held by achievers should assessed. Murphy also addresses several issues of group dynamics, including growing teams, managing conflict, and succession planning. These behaviors taken together are all a part of developing a culture that values both leadership and personal achievement.

October 26, 2007

Book Review - Improving Disaster Management

Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery
National Research Council
HC 551.2 .N37 2007

This is a result of the e-Government Act of 2002, which called for a study of how information technology is used in disaster management. It begins by providing a context of what happens in disaster situations, emphasizing the use of information technology for information gathering and communication. It goes on to present ideas and recommendations of how this infrastructure could be used to greater effect, improving disaster management. Challenges and difficulties, particularly those involving social structures and organizations are enumerated and strategies to overcome them suggested. Finally, the study presents ideas on how the technical and information technology systems can be strengthened and improved to better support disaster recovery efforts.

Book Review - Leading at a Higher Level

Leading at a Higher Level: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations
Founding Associates and Consulting partners of the Ken Blanchard Companies
HD 57.7 .B5612 2007

In this book, Ken Blanchard and his associates have shifted from defining leadership as an influence process, instead moving toward a definition of leadership as articulation of a compelling vision. To set the ground work, they clarify what they mean by a high performing organization and share what they believe the role and power of vision is within that environment. To key components of leadership within these kinds of organizations is dedicated focus on customer service and support of people within the organization. The articulate skills that organizational leaders need to learn and channel these into effective models and points of view for potential leaders to follow.

October 25, 2007

Book Review - Absolute Honesty

Absolute Honesty: Building a Corporate Culture that Values Straight Talk and Rewards Integrity
Larry Johnson and Bob Phillips
HD 58.7 .J612 2003

Johnson and Phillips are attempting to change the dynamics in organizations today. They begin their study by defining truth and honesty and articulating how it can benefit organizations. They contrast this with organizational cultures, customs, and personal behaviors that can be found today. Once this background is laid, they put forward six laws of absolute honesty, discussing each in some depth. The concluding chapters address how to incorporate these principles into organizations, providing mechanisms and contexts that can be used.

Book Review - Quest for Viable Peace

The Quest for Viable Peace: International Intervention and Strategies for Conflict Transformation
ed. by Jock Covey, Michael J. Dziedzic, and Leonard R. Hawley
JZ 5538 .Q47 2005

This collection of essays looks at responsibility and processes involved in establishing lasting peace. Early chapters address the historical background and military intervention preceding peace establishment efforts. The remaining chapters examine factors that must be considered and processes that could be used in order for a viable peace effort. Among these, strategies are provided to help smooth the transition from conflict to peace.

October 24, 2007

Book Review - Fish Conservation

Fish Conservation: A Guide to Understanding and Restoring Global Aquatic Biodiversity and Fishery Resources
Gene S. Helfman
SH 327.7 .H46 2007

This is first and foremost a book about conservation and ecosystem restoration. Helfman focuses his discussion on ecological problems and solutions surrounding fish, but he really uses fish as an example to more broadly discuss environmental vulnerability, animal habitat loss, and the effect of commercial exploitation on wildlife. He assumes some knowledge of fish science in writing this book, but also provides his reader with much of the necessary biological, geopolitical, and species vulnerability information early on in his work. This book is extensively referenced with a long bibliography and index at the end. Helfman points out that more than half of these resources appeared after he began his research and writing process, indicating the increasing interest in these issues, the growth of environmental concerns, and the need to begin addressing them. In some ways, this work serves as a textbook to bring these topics together, particularly those interested in water resources or species. In others, it provides a theoretical and thought process framework for anyone interested in natural resources preservation.

Book Review - FutureThink

FutureThink: How to Think Clearly in a Time of Change
Edie Weiner and Arnold Brown
HD 58.8 .W45 2006

This is a book about mental discipline. Weiner and Brown present 16 techniques that can be used to open your mind, consider new possibilities, and become better aware of what is going on around you. These techniques are divided into four broad categories. First, they offer several ways of overcoming individual biases, blocks and traps. Second, they suggest ways of moving beyond institutional biases and resistance to change. Third, they encourage looking at the big picture. Fourth, they reinforce the need to use imagination and non-traditional thinking to think outside the box. Each technique is supported by multiple examples of how it can be used in real life situations. The authors also reference a tremendous amount of scholarly, popular, and news material to support their suggestions and help the readers further expand their thinking.

October 22, 2007

Book Review - On Work and Life Balance

Harvard Business Review on Work and Life Balance
HD 4904 .H345 2000

This book takes an academic look at how individuals balance their work life with the rest of their life. Chapters contributed by a number of authors address the drives of success and workaholism as well as the pull of children and family. These authors recognize the changing landscape of the office, asking separately about what men want out of their work-home balance and comparing that the desires of women. Authors also examine burn-out, alternative work sites, and second careers, trends that seem to be on the rise. This collection is very readable, but not heavily footnoted.

Book Review - Winds of Change

The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations
Eugene Linden
QC 981.8 .C5 L567 2006

Linden's book examines the reaction of societies to climate change. Using an historical perspective, he argues that societies become complacent during good weather, then are disrupted or destroyed altogether by bad weather either through its direct effects or indirectly by disease or civil unrest. He uses this historical analysis to evaluate the possible effects of destructive weather systems that we are increasingly experiencing. He discusses El Nino, Hurricane Katrina, and changing oceanic currents, highlighting their effects on society and public opinion, and predicting how continued climate unrest might continue to impact our political and social structures.

October 19, 2007

Book Review - Lean Solutions

Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers can Create Value and Wealth Together
James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
HF 5415.5 .W64 2005

This book by the authors of Lean Thinking continues the thought process begun there, moving beyond the applications to manufacturing production and consumption into the realm of problem solving. The authors continue to work with the principles that they believe underscore lean thinking--1) Provide the value actually desired by the customer. 2) Identify the process necessary to bring this product to the customer. 3) Make the process flow continuously. 4) Let the customer pull what it needs from the company. 5) Repeat this process continuously to see how it can be improved. This book applies this same process beyond just the manufacturing stage, encompassing customer service and problem solving aspects of customer relations as well.

Book Review - Do No Harm

Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace - or War
Mary B. Anderson
HV 544.5 .A53 1999

This book is an outcome of the Local Capacities for Peace Project, a collection of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations agencies and other non-profit groups who have studied or been affected by AID. In presenting this information, Anderson first examines conflict areas today, identifying shared characteristics and evaluating the effects that external aid have had on these conflicts. She then moves on to highlight a series of case studies selected from around the world and in varying stages of conflict. These cases highlight how aid can be used in peacemaking efforts. The hope of these stories, and the work as a whole, is to provide ideas and strategies to future organizations for effective use of aid workers and funds to promote peace and deter continued conflict.

Book Review - The Good Enough Guide

The Good Enough Guide: Impact Measurement and Accountability in Emergencies
Emergency Capacity Building Project
HV 553 .I46 2007

This guide intends to provide the basic principles and measures of accountability, particularly for use in emergency management. This short guide provides a straight forward guide to questions that should be asked and information that should be gathered. It includes a series of tools and gives step by step instructions on how to put them to work in projects. This is a very practical pocket handbook.

October 17, 2007

Book Review - Construction Dewatering and Groundwater Control

Construction Dewatering and Groundwater Control: New Methods and Applications
3rd Edition
J. Patrick Powers, Arthur B. Corwin, Paul C. Schmall, and Walter E. Kaeck
TH 153 .P648 2007

In the preface, the authors state that their intent for this book is to be a source of practical information for engineers who work with groundwater in their construction projects. They assert that the theories governing water behavior haven't changed much over the three editions of this title that have been published. However, the types of problems and appropriate solutions to them have changed dramatically. This third edition pays particular attention to issues of water contamination and incorporating solutions that minimize environmental impacts. The book is broadly arranged to discuss theory then practical solutions. In addition to discussing geological factors, design issues, and engineering solutions, the authors address costs of dewatering and dealing with disputes.

Book Review - Wisdom of Crowds

The Wisdom of Crowds
James Surowiecki
JC 328.2 .S87 2005

In this book, New Yorker columnist Surowiecki explores the notion that groups produce better decisions than individuals, regardless of their intelligence. The discussion ranges across a diverse collection of fields, both academic and popular culture, to show how this idea of collaboration is embedded in the way we live our lives, organize ourselves, run companies and governments.

October 16, 2007

Book Review - Failed Stone

Failed Stone: Problems and Solutions with Concrete and Masonry
Patrick Loughran
NA 4119 .L68 2007

Dually trained as both an engineer and an architecht Patrick Loughran writes this second book in a continuing study of building materials and the challenges that their collapse presents in design. In doing so, Loughran hopes to highlight solutions overcome in past architectural projects and to prevent future problems using these building materials. Lavishly illustrated, this book showcases both well-known buildings and relatively anonymous structures. Close-ups point out where building materials have broken, cracked or taken abuse, and both engineering and design solutions to these problems are discussed. Chapters thematically discuss the types of problems encountered, such as discoloration, corrosion, and leakage. Lists of "lessons learned" are presented at the end of each chapter as a way of summarizing and grouping problems together. This book is valuable for practitioners who can incorporate these lessons into their work, but is equally interesting to those who appreciate beautiful buildings and want to understand why the concrete cracks or the surface is peeling away.

Book Review - The Power of Nice

The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness
Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval
HD 57.7 .K367 2006

Thaler and Koval's book revolves around a simple principle: People should be nice because it is the right thing to do and it makes people feel good. Because of that humanity, they argue, it is also good for business. Filled with anecdotes, this book describes simple ways that being kind, polite and friendly can win business contracts and friends for life. The authors recount how simple things like welcoming greetings, assisting weary travelers with their luggage, or passing along a compliment can reap rewards far greater than their cost. At the same time, they point out that these same small gestures, when ignored or misunderstood, can poison relationships and stand in the way of contracts in spite of otherwise outstanding presentations. They convey three important characteristics of "nice" that are required for this to be effective--be truthful, be positive, and be genuine. Without these traits, being nice seems not to be a personality trait, but rather an act.

October 12, 2007

Book Review - Field Guide to Conservation Finance

A Field Guide to Conservation Finance
Story Clark
QH 76 .C53 2007

This book is intended for any organization who seeks to contribute to the field of conservation. People around the world are increasingly motivated to preserve and use the natural resources around them, but these efforts often begin with small changes made close to home. Story's work explains how an organization can prepare itself to become involved in the conservation arena. She explains extensively how money can be raised or borrowed to finance these efforts. In two brief ending chapters, she explains how to assemble all of the pieces together. This is a practical guide written based on both personal experiences and research collected by the author.

Book Review - Excavations and Foundations in Soft Soil

Excavations and Foundations in Soft Soils
Hans-Georg Kempfert and Berhane Gebraselassie
TA 710.5 .K46 2006

In their preface, the authors explain that they intend this book on soil engineering to serve both practicing engineers and research scholars. The authors first describe the properties of soft soils, including materials that are commonly found in them. They proceed directly to practical engineering aspects of working in soft soil environments, including excavating, building foundations, and stabilizing the soil with columns. The book is generously illustrated with images and graphs that help readers better understand the text. It is also thoroughly researched and well indexed.

October 11, 2007

Book Review - Hydrodemolition

Hydrodemolition of Concrete Surfaces and Reinforced Concrete Structures
Andreas W. Momber
TH 153 .M66 2005

This clear and well organized book guides the reader from a definition of water jets to several applications for them in engineering and industry. Hydrodemolition is central to this book. Momber explains the properties of high-speed water jets, their capabilities, and the parameters required for them to be used to remove material. Equipment involved in the process is also given a detailed discussion, both the materials necessary for generating high-speed water streams as well as the qualities and features of surfaces that they are used against most effectively. Momber finishes with two chapters addressing problem solving issues and optimizing the effectiveness of the hydrodemolition processes.

Book Review - "My Brave Mechanics"

Engineer soldiers have played an important role in American military activities since the Revolutionary War. Follow in the footsteps of one unit fighting its way through the Civil War.

"My Brave Mechanics:" The First Michigan Engineers and Their Civil War
Mark Hoffman
E 524.9 H64 2007

This regimental history follows the current trend of focusing on the lives on individual, ordinary people. In doing so, it brings to life many of the soldiers in this regiment and helps us to understand their personal challenges as well as their wartime experiences. The book highlights the differences between engineer soldiers and their more numerous and well known infantry and cavalry counterparts, both in describing their training and skills and recounting their role during the hostilities. It provides vivid descriptions of trestle bridges, blockhouses, and other construction responsibilities of these engineers, as well as accounts of destroying transportation and communication lines in order to delay their enemies. Hoffman makes extensive use of primary evidence in his writing, much of it privately held in the hands of the soldiers' descendents or in university archives, and provides extensive notes, photos and maps to support the text.

October 5, 2007

Book Review - Six Sigma Fundamentals

Six Sigma Fundamentals: A Complete Guide to the System, Methods and Tools
D. H. Stamatis
TS 156 .S735 2004

The stated goal of this book is to create a "single volume addressing the general items of the six sigma methodology without the 'fluffiness'." In accomplishing this goal, Stamatis's book reads like a manual which moves from a definition and overview of six sigma to implementing it. Along the way, he addresses key components of this system--reaction of customers, theoretical models, methodologies and tools, designing six sigma projects, roles and responsibilities, and training and certification. Valuable appendices listing competencies, providing mathematical and model tables and charts abstracted from longer, more detailed discussions of six sigma, and a sample flow chart of one industrial implementation make this a useful guide for both the novice and expert alike.

Book Review - Design for Water

Have you ever considered recycling your water?

Design for Water: Rainwater Harvesting, Stormwater Catchment and Alternate Water Reuse
Heather Kinkade-Levario
TD 353 .K55 2007

Kincade-Levario's book is filled with ideas that use landscape and architectural design principles as well as engineering solutions to make the most of the water that nature provides to us. She briefly explains the principles behind collection of rainwater before detailing both passive and active ways of accomplishing this goal. Most impressive is that half of this book is comprised of examples where rainwater collection systems have been implemented in residential, commercial, industrial and municipal settings for both human and landscape uses. The book is nicely organized, extensively illustrated and well documented for use by novices and experts on this subject alike.

October 3, 2007

Book Review - Power of a Positive No

When do you say NO in the workplace?

The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes
William Ury
BF 637 .N4 U795 2007

The premise behind Ury's book is an increasing need for people "to stand up for what they value without destroying their relationships" during adversarial conflicts. The author describes this not only as professional negotiation skill, but also as a life skill. Once acquired, the author believes that this technique will permit its users to respect their own needs and beliefs while simultaneously coming to an agreement that satisfies someone else making external demands on them.

Ury describes this process as having three phases. First, the individual has to discover their personal need within the area of conflict. This allows him to establish boundaries for himself that he can explain and feel good about defending. Second, the individual expresses their position. They lay out what they will be willing to do, outline their boundary, and propose an alternate path to satisfy the needs of both parties. Finally, the user must remain firm, restating their positions until the requirements of both parties have been negotiated.

Book Review - Peacekeeping

These three titles provide complementary perspectives in the study of peacekeeping.

Understanding Peacekeeping

Alex J. Bellamy, Paul Williams, and Stewart Griffin
JZ 6374 .B45 2004

Why Peacekeeping Fails
Dennis C. Jett
JZ 6374 2000

Building Sustainable Peace
edited by Tom Keating and W. Andy Knight
JZ 5538 .B85 2004

Bellamy, Williams, and Griffin's work provides a foundational understanding of the peacekeeping field. The first part provides context by explaining the role that peacekeeping plays in international politics and introducing the characters who are involved in peacekeeping activities. The second part details the historical development of this practice, providing a relationship between war and peace. The third part defines and analyzes a variety of difference peacekeeping operations. Finally, the book highlights challenges of peacekeeping among contemporary challenges of globalization, contracting, changing political leadership and escalating violence.

Jett's work builds on that of Bellamy, Williams, and Griffin, analyzing why many peacekeeping efforts fail. He briefly establishes the history of the peacekeeping movement before pointing to examples of failures. His intention is to identify factors that cause peacekeeping operations to fail, hoping that in doing so, the success rate of these missions can be increased. To accomplish this, he identifies three phases that all peacekeeping activities must go through. He evaluates characteristics that motivate UN peacekeeping intervention, then moves on to analyze each phase. Finally, he looks at the post-peacekeeping period, arguing that if conditions for lasting peace have not been properly established, the peace can be quickly undone once the peacekeepers have left.

Keating and Knight's work dovetails nicely with Jett's final chapters. Basing their studies on peacekeeping examples drawn from around the world, authors address the question of what conditions were required to establish peace. This acknowledges that the cause of violence or unrest often varies in different contexts. Some of the sources of conflict discussed here include humanitarian conditions, war, judicial inequities, sex and gender discrimination, and political organizations. The last few chapters address the financial and social costs of violence and peacekeeping and the potential for a shift from societies of conflict toward peaceful societies.

October 2, 2007

Book Review - Fateful Choices

What determined the path of World War II? Did early decisions direct the outcome of the war?

Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World, 1940-1941
Ian Kershaw
D 741 .K43 2007

In this study, Ian Kershaw selects ten decision points, each of which had tremendous impact on the course and outcome of World War II. Each chapter, dedicated to one of these decision points, discusses possible other choices that could have been made, the outcomes that they might have caused, and analyzes how the ultimate decision was reached. This "what if" approach to history is increasingly accepted by scholars as a way to better understand the conditions that key figures were facing during the events that are studied. Kershaw's work is well grounded in historical literature and well documented. Even those with limited interest in the minutae of history may find this book useful for the lessons that it can teach to scenario planners.

October 1, 2007

Book Review - Market for Force

There is tremendous hype and confusion about the role of privately-hired personnel working in war zones. How can we sort fact from fiction?

The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security
Deborah D. Avant
HV 8290 .A83 2005

Avant, a professor of Political Science, approaches this topic from a theoretical perspective. First, she examines the control of force, applying political, functional, and market perspectives on what drives this into the private sector. She creates three case studies where security forces have been contracted by the government and evaluates their relative successes. Finally, she uses these studies to draw conclusions about future uses of contracted security, paying particular attention to the financial aspects and possibilities for internationalization of this trend.

Book Review - Path of Destruction

Could the devastation felt in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina have been predicted? What is in store for this area in future years?

Path of Destruction: The Devastation of New Orleans and the Coming Age of Superstorms
John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein
HV 636 .L8 M37 2006

McQuaid and Schleifstein take an historical look at New Orleans and the role that natural disasters have played there throughout the 20th century. They examine its relationship to local waterways, discuss the engineering feats that were used to build and maintain the city, and evaluate how effectively New Orleans has overcome nature. The main body of the book takes a detailed look at the effects of Hurricane Katrina, marching through the events day-by-day. This case study is then used to draw larger conclusions about the trend toward increasingly devastating storms and the effect that they will have on New Orleans and other places.