November 30, 2007

Book Review - A Perfect Mess

A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder: How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-fly Planning Make the World a Better Place
Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman
BJ 1533 .O73 A27 2006

This is a book for those of us who are constantly battling clutter. Abrahamson and Freedman prove that the costs of being neat and organized often outweigh the benefits. Digging deeper, they found that moderately disorganized people and organizations are often more creative, more efficient, longer lasting, and generally more effective than those that are highly structured and organized. They provide numerous and varied examples that support this assertion, analyzing people, places, organizations, and processes such as thinking, leadership and the creation of works of art.

Book Review - Job Feedback

Job Feedback: Giving, Seeking and Using Feedback for Performance Improvement
Manuel London
2nd ed.
HF 5549.5 .M63 L66 2003

This book provides a useful tool for improving communication: feedback. It stresses how feedback can be used, especially by supervisors, to improve employee performance. It also discusses how individuals can gather feedback from multiple sources to improve themselves and better align their self-perception with the perspective of others. Specific chapters discuss how feedback can be used effectively in performance assessments and to improve teamwork. Throughout the writing, London emphasizes that feedback should be used for self-development, greater awareness, coaching, and continual learning and continually reminds readers that the feedback process, like all communication, involves two parts: giving feedback and accepting it.

November 27, 2007

Book Review - Rivertown

Rivertown: Rethinking Urban Rivers
ed. by Paul Stanton Kibel
HT 175 .R58 2007

This collection of case studies illustrates a shifting relationship between rivers and their neighboring urban areas. This book highlights restoration efforts, both of the water resources and the adjacent property, in major cities across the United States. It also showcases the role that the federal government, particularly the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and activism among citizens plays in many of these cities. Each case study examines who makes decisions concerning the river and watershed, who benefit or suffers from these decisions, what costs, financial and otherwise, and stakeholder concerns are involved in the decision, and what can be learned by other cities considering similar questions. This book will be of interest to urban planners and those interested in environmental politics.

Book Review - Starfish and the Spider

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
HD 50 .B73 2006

Brafman and Beckstrom pull together over five years of research into the success of Wikipedia, Craigslist, eBay, and other organizations. They argue that organizations follow one of two basic behaviors. "Spider" companies have rigid hierarchies and top down leadership approaches. "Starfish" companies rely on the power of peer relationships. This book examines what happens when starfish and spiders clash. It also discusses behaviors that the two "species" might learn from each other and adapt into their own organizations.

November 21, 2007

Book Review - Constructed Wetlands in the Sustainable Landscape

Constructed Wetlands in the Sustainable Landscape
Craig S. Campbell and Michael H. Ogden
TD 756.5 .C35 1999

This book advocates sustainable development and seeks to find a place for wetlands in that process. The two opening chapters discuss the history and ideas surrounding sustainable development and the ecological processes occurring in wetlands. With that context, the remaining eight chapters offer possibilities for combining the two ideas--either using wetlands in order to make surrounding growth and development more environmentally friendly or to construct wetlands for their aesthetic beauty and value as an ecosystem for wildlife. Design goals and planning considerations are discussed for several possible uses of wetlands. Numerous examples of multi-use wetlands are also discussed, demonstrating the practical application of these authors' vision.

Book Review - Climate Change

Climate Change: What it Means for Us, Our Children, and Our Grandchildren
Joseph F. C. DiMento and Pamela Doughman
QC 981.8 .C5 C6126 2007

This collection of essays approaches global climate change from a variety of perspectives. Several of the essays try to make the science understandable and to point out what the likely effects will be on the global scale as well as at the local level. Other chapters address the science of climate change, underscoring the difficulty in communicating environmental science. Finally, two chapters speculate about what the climate change will mean for the next few generations and for human society in general.

November 19, 2007

Book Review - Leadership Gap

The Leadership Gap: Building Leadership Capacity for Competitive Advantage
David S. Weiss and Vince Molinaro
HD 57.7 .W4527 2005

Weiss and Molinaro assert that there is a leadership gap in many companies between those at the executive or CEO level and other levels of the company. This book addresses how that gap can be filled or bridged by addressing for areas: talent, capability, development, and values. First, the authors' evaluate the responses to that assertion by leaders, looking at companies as a whole, business strategy, culture, and values, and addressing leadership at several levels within organizations. Second, they assess organizations' responses to the same issues, focusing on strategies to include and develop leaders and many levels and investigating how leadership development can "pay off" for companies. This book is full of recommendations and techniques that leaders and managers at all levels of an organization may incorporate into the way that they work.

Book Review - Unnatural History of the Sea

The Unnatural History of the Sea
Callum Roberts
CB 465 .R63 2007

Roberts' deceptively simple title hides the controversy that this book might stir among some readers. He aligns his primary focus, fishing, to the historical trends of exploration and the industrial revolution, giving the reader a chronological perspective on how we have reached present-day conditions regarding fish populations. Roberts first ten chapters focus around the age of exploration. He characterizes this period as exploitation as he examines fishing as a profession and business and looks specifically at a few individual species and fishing regions. The next ten chapters analyze the results of earlier exploitation and add the complications of modern technology, natural disasters, and environmental damage. In the last five chapters, Roberts' addresses changes necessary to preserve fish and ocean habitats in general. These are not limited to fishing management, but reach more widely into areas of social change and environmental consciousness. This book is thoroughly researched and would be valuable for those interested in environmentalism and the roles of commerce and natural resources in history.

November 2, 2007

Book Review - The Adversity Advantage

The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness
Paul G. Stoltz and Erik Weihenmayer
BF 637 .S8 S694 2006

Stoltz, who authored the Adversity Quotient, teams up with Weihenmayer, a successful blind athlete, in this book to show how his princples can be put into action. The organization is based on the image and physical challenge of climbing the seven highest mountains in the world. Each summit is tied to one of Stoltz's principles and Weihenmayer supplies real life anecdotes that exemplify these principles. Early chapters advise readers to accept and embrace adversities rather than fighting them and illustrates what personal strengths need to be mustered in order to overcome them. Next, readers are encouraged to analyze their adversities to understand them as well as their emotional reactions to them and to brainstorm possibilities of addressing them. The final three chapters take a broader outlook, suggesting how you move through life in relation to adversities. Suggestions are given for how to choose the "right things, people, obligations and pursuits [that] will strengthen you," learning to turn painful experiences into opportunities for growth. The book wraps up by providing practices that can be used daily to use adversity to your benefit.

Book Review - Government Extenstion to the PMBOK Guide

Government Extension to the PMBOK Guide Third Edition
Project Management Insititute
HD 69 .P75 G721 2006

This is the first industry sector-specific book associated with the Project Management Body of Knowledge. This volume references the PMBOK Guide, Third Edition and is designed to be used in conjunction with it. However, it interprets this foundational guide, adapting it for use in public sector projects. It highlights two distinctive factors that are unique to government projects: laws that define the execution and enforcement of responsibilities that often impact projects and the responsibility of the project team to serve as stewards of the public interest. These two critical differences between public sector projects and those in for-profit business settings is emphasized throughout this book.