December 31, 2007

Book Review - The Power of We

The Power ot We: Succeeding through Partnerships
Jonathan M. Tisch
HD 69 .S8 T57 2004

Tisch argues that if we put aside personal interests to form partnerships, we would achieve greater success and become more efficient. In each of his ten chapters, Tisch provides yet another justification for partnerships. Stressing cooperation over competition, he illustrates how individuals and organizations are able to achieve more, reduce conflict, expand capabilities and markets, and better align your interests with your community by working together rather than alone. Each chapter is highlighted by a successful individual or organization and the partnership story that helped them get there. This book is not only inspirational, but it is a new model for individuals and businesses to consider following.

Book Review - The First-time Manager's Guide to Teambuilding

The First-time Manager's Guide to Teambuilding
Gary S. Topchik
HD 30.4 .T67 2007

Topchik's short book is an overview that describes the processes and problems involved in building a managing a team. His intended audience is individuals new to the leader or manager role, but it also serves as a reminder of the key concerns for project managers or senior leaders as well. The book is divided into five sections. First, Topchik defines teams and teamwork, presenting several models of team composition and function. Next, he differentiates the role of the team leader or manager from those of other team member, describing skills and responsibilities that the leader has. Third, he presents requirements for developing a team spirit. Fourth, he overviews some of the challenges in managing the team. Finally, he suggests a number of team-building activities that might help members get to know each other and become interdependent. This is a quick read that hits the highlights of team leadership. Topchik could have put more emphasis on the uniqueness of each team throughout his writing, however. He mentions the difficulties in getting individuals to work together, but does not offer concrete steps or suggestions to overcoming these.

December 28, 2007

Book Review - Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts

Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground
Robert D. Kaplan
UA 23 .K345 2007

Kaplan, a journalist for Atlantic Monthly, writes this book as a continuing examination of the United States military and its involvement in the War on Terror. In this follow-up to Imperial Grunts, Kaplan shows the diversity of military efforts taking place around the world between 2004 and 2006. He illustrates the challenges of air, sea, and ground warfare environments that soldiers, sailors and airmen endure. At the same time, readers get to know the personal commitments, hardships, friendships, and losses of the individuals who serve in the American military. This book shows that while media attention has focused on the Middle East, in reality, the War on Terror has the American Military engaged around the globe. It also shows the humanity and motivation of those thousands of individuals who are so often homogenized when military history is recounted. This is an engaging read for anyone interested in contemporary military activities.

Book Review - Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value
Bill George
HD 57.7 .G458 2003

George's book is a manifesto for the need to bring values and morality back into leadership. In his introduction, he asserts that these characteristics have largely been lost in the current generation of leadership as individuals instead took opportunities for personal gain along their climb to the top. The first section of the book defines what George considers to be an authentic leader, explaining the characteristics that are found in these individuals and how they develop through their experiences. In the second section, he articulates a process through which these mission-driven leaders create values-centered organizations which focus on their customers. In the third section, he argues that customer and shareholder centered-ness is an advantage in the marketplace. He cautions that this is not an easy path, however, and provides some guidance on how problems and ethical dilemmas can be overcome. Finally, he looks at the overall success of authentic organizations, concluding that their focus on mission and values has allowed them to be led rather than managed or governed. In essence, he asserts that mission and authenticity is the critical difference between leadership and management.

Book Review - Ritual House

Ritual House: Drawing on Nature's Rhythms for Architecture and Urban Design
Ralph L. Knowles
NA 2542.4 .K58 2006

Knowles book explains that the homes that we live in have become disconnected with the natural rhythms of our lives and seeks to reestablish this connection. The book is divided into three parts. First, the author looks at historical connections between people's natural cycles of life and their homes. In three chapters, he examines migration or regular travel patterns, regular changes in our spaces such as those that result from opening windows or doors, and gathering to share warmth or food. Next, he explains how the growth of urban centers has changed the way that people live and how technology has helped their living spaces become divorced from the rhythms of nature. Finally, he advocates reconnecting homes to their natural habitats by paying close attention to the sun and the way that it affects the spaces. Knowles brings extensive background using solar power in residential buildings, so he naturally turns to his previous work as a central to filling the gap that he sees.

December 27, 2007

Book Review - Green to Gold

Green to Gold: How Smart Companies use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage
Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston
HD 30.225 .E88 2006

This is not a book admonishing companies to become increasingly environmental. Rather, it argues that companies can find success in voluntarily adopting environmental awareness and practices because these are inherently good business strategies. In part one, the authors explain how environmental issues affect business, both on the production side and on the sales and marketing front. They remind readers that it is consumers and other stakeholders who really drive the direction of businesses. Parts two and three offer strategies for increasing environmentally friendly practices in business operations. These include reducing environmental costs and risks, using environmental awareness to increase value, and lessening the environmental impact of products used and production methods. In part four, these strategies are formed into action plans. Particularly valuable here are "lessons learned" about how eco-strategies fail and suggestions on how to avoid these pitfalls.

Book Review - Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management

Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management
HD 30.2 .H375 1998

The practice of knowledge management has recently emerged as an effective way for companies and organizations to put the information that their employees have gained to work to provide a competitive advantage. This collection of essays originally published in Harvard Business Review focuses on one key aspect of knowledge management--learning. Essays focus on how knowledge is created, how individuals and companies learn, and how to put that knowledge and learning to work to improve the organization. Introductory and capstone essays discuss learning and knowledge as ways to "reinvent" the corporation or to create a "new" type of organization.

December 26, 2007

Book Review - East of Chosin

East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea, 1950
Roy E. Appleman
DS 918.2 .C35 A66 1987

Appleman, a retired officer, was not satisfied with the explanations provided by the Korean War's official records of the devastating battle over the Chosin Reservoir. This battle, of primary interest to veterans and military historians alike, has been vague and confusing even to many who fought there. This story, pieced together from interviews with survivors, photographs, and limited documentation produced at the time of the battle, begins to unravel the mystery of what happened to the many soldiers whose lives were lost during those few snowy days. Appleman's narrative clarifies the events of the Chosin battle, humanizing the extreme weather conditions, confusion, and loss of human life because of the many points of view that he uses to determine what actually happened. A definitive study when originally published in 1987, the amount of research and Appleman's quality writing have ensured that this study has remained valuable and authoritative for the past two decades.

Book Review - Purpose

Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies
Nikos Mourkogiannis
HD 30.28 .M686 2006

Mourkogiannis argues that it is not the organization, values, leadership, or success in the marketplace is not what defines a great company. Instead, he asserts that finding a fulfilling a purpose is what causes a company to make the transition from good to great. In the first section of his book, he introduces the idea of purpose and identifies four types: discovery, excellence, altruism, and heroism. In the second section, he illustrates purpose through the stories of successful companies and the individuals who led them. In the third section, he ties purpose to other philosophical concepts such as morale, innovation, and leadership, showing readers that great companies are not lacking in other strengths, but rather that their purpose provides a context in which to operate and a way of measuring and valuing their successes.

Book Review - To Follow the Water

To Follow the Water: Exploring the Sea to Discover Climate, From the Gulf Stream to the Blue Beyond
Dallas Murphy
GC 190.2 .M87 2007

Murphy has done extensive research to unlock the role of the ocean in climate change. Using books and technical periodicals as well as participating in several shipboard scientific investigations, Murphy seeks to explain to non-scientists why the ocean has largely been left out of discussions focused around climate change. In the introduction to his work, he describes the ocean as a tremendously complex system, one that is particularly difficult to study because of its harsh climates, both above and below the surf. Add to that the dynamic interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere, science which is changing with the increase in greenhouse gases. This sophisticated system is just beginning to be understood by scientists, who still have little ability to predict how the changing system will react in future conditions. Murphy uses analogies, word pictures, and other complicated, but well studied systems to begin to bring this environmental mystery to the attention of general readers seeking to understand extreme weather patterns, causes and effects of environmental damage, and those seeking to understand of the earth's most predominant feature.

December 21, 2007

Book Review - The Teton Dam Disaster

The Teton Dam Disaster
Dylan J. McDonald
F 752 .S7 M38 2006

Part of the Images of America series, this book celebrates local history primarily through the use of photography. The Teton Dam, built in eastern Idaho in the early 1970's, was intended to control the periodic flooding of the wild and meandering Teton River. A contentious project from the start, building of the dam was delayed because of seismic and geologic concerns as well as uproar that damming the river would negatively affect the fishing and wildlife habitat. While the first chapter visually documents the siting and building of the dam, remaining chapters illustrate the dam's collapse and the destruction of towns and farmland in the Upper Snake River Valley area. A short chapter on determining the cause of the dam failure caps this study. While most believe the design of the dam was faulty, the real cause might never be known because so much of the evidence was washed away.

Book Review - Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America and the Middle East 1776 to the Present
Michael B. Oren
DS 63.2 .U5 O54 2007

Michael Oren argues that the United States has been intertwined with the Middle East since its beginning. Using primary sources, Oren traces the influences that the Middle East has had on the United States, its policies, and its peoples, and that American has had on the Middle East. This book considers political channels, economic interactions, artistic influences, and even the transfer of ideas between the regions. Importantly, he examines how each country and culture has been portrayed by the other over time. This interesting history may shed some light on the perceptions of the Middle East in modern America and in the views held of the United States by Middle Eastern countries and peoples.

Book Review - Globalizing Rural Development

Globalizing Rural Development: Competing Paradigms and Emerging Realitities
Ed. by M. C. Behera
HN 49 .C6 G568 2006

This collection brings together two seemingly disparate ideas: globalization and rural development. After a brief introduction to these main themes, the role of the state and non-governmental organizations in globalization is considered. The second major section considers issues of sustainability alongside rural development. In the third section, participation is addressed and barriers to development are analyzed. Throughout this study, the authors use case studies from around the world to illustrate their point and to show that the challenges and obstacles to rural development are similar across the globe.

December 14, 2007

Book Review - Corporate Culture Handbook

The Corporate Culture Handbook: How to Plan, Implement, and Measure a Successful Culture Change Program
Gabrielle O'Donovan
HD 58.7 .O33 2006

O'Donovan comes to this topic from the point of view of change management. She asserts that most companies were built as economic entities, but that today they play both social and economic roles. In order to create a culture which fits with this social role--whether ethical, customer service oriented, innovative or fun--some cultural change must occur within the organization. O'Donovan brings her practical experience planning and managing these changes and aligns them with theoretical models derived from organizational psychology. In this book she shares a winning strategy for organizational change employed by one company. Perhaps more usefully, she outlines a plan for cultural change that can be modified and adopted by other companies seeking to refocus their efforts.

Book Review - Building Stone Decay

Building Stone Decay: From Diagnosis to Conservation
Edited by R. Prikryl and B. J. Smith
TH 1201 .E77 2005

This collection of essays bridges the gaps between architecture, engineering, and conservation. The book begins with a collection of essays providing a representative sampling of endangered stone architecture from around the world. The next two sections focus on patterns and processes of decay. Included here are a variety of different decay causes--fire, weather, mineral causes--and how to assess and monitor the extent of degradation. Decay caused by salt is significant enough to warrant its own group of chapters. Several common stones used in building are examined. Finally, a group of summary chapters consider the use of stone generally, in conservation projects specifically, and implications for ruins and historical architecture.

December 13, 2007

Book Review - When the Rivers Run Dry

When the Rivers Run Dry: Water--the Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century
Fred Pearce
TC 405 .P43 2006

Pearce gives us a collection of cautionary tales about what happens to the earth, our resources, and our way of life when water is in short supply. The book is organized by the consequence that results--for example crop failures, floods, water resource wars. Each of these consequences is illustrated by real life lessons supplied by case studies. Of course, the traditionally desert Middle East and North African countries are well represented in these, but so too are China, the Caucasus region, and several parts of the United States. Emphasis is clearly on presenting pictures of conflicts over water throughout the world. What this book does not include are suggestions or prescriptions for conserving water or presenting future conflicts.

Book Review - Life Matters

Life Matters: Creating a Dynamic Balance of Work, Family, Time & Money
A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill
BJ 1581.2 .M47 2003

Merrill and Merrill assert that work, family, time, money and even wisdom all matter. The goal, they argue, is to teach people the ability to find an appropriate balance between them. Life is difficult, they concede, and is full of new challenges, difficulties, obstacles, and opportunities which pop up on a regular basis. Therefore, achieving a balanced life is not a one-time, process, but rather a daily effort. They take a realistic approach, helping readers to asses their feelings and commitments to each of these areas. They also stress that it is impossible to do everything or to go through life on fast forward continuously. Learning to balance factors in life dynamically, they argue, is to find satisfaction with all of parts that compete for attention in life.

December 11, 2007

Book Review - Microtrends

Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes
Mark J. Penn with E. Kinney Zalesne
HB 3505 .P44 2007

Polling expert and advisor to both Bill and Hillary Clintons' campaigns, Mark J. Penn relies on statistical data to identify emerging trends. He asserts that the United States is no longer a melting pot, but instead a collection of small communities each with their own tastes and lifestyles. Success, both in politics and in business, lies in seeking out these groups and identifying their microtrends. Penn's book discusses fifteen categories of communities and the trends that he sees emerging from them. Nearly every aspect of life is fair game--from relationships to religion, teens to technology, food to family life. This is a fascinating and revealing book that will leave you doubting "conventional wisdom."

Book Review - How Great Leaders Get Great Results

How Great Leaders Get Great Results
John Baldoni
HD 38.25 .U6 B35 2006

In studying great leaders, Baldoni has identified seven key steps that they employ to achieve success. For each of the steps--vision, alignment, execution, risk, discipline, courage, and results--Baldoni recounts the story and behavior of a particular leader who has employed this tactic. This method provides readers with real-life examples of processes that they might use in their own organization. His goal is to focus on results and to assist his readers with the formation of a plan to achieve them.

Book Review - Lost Knowledge

Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce
David W. DeLong
HD 58.82 .D4 2004

DeLong's book is particularly applicable to the Federal workforce. He begins by pointing out the high costs and strategic impacts of loosing employees with extensive knowledge about the projects and programs of their organization. He ends this first part by proposing a plan to address this problem, both by capturing knowledge and developing skills among younger employees. The second part of the book explains and evaluates practices involved in knowledge transfer. Part three adds to this by offering retention strategies, both to hold on to corporate knowledge and to initiate knowledge sharing practices early in careers.

December 10, 2007

Book Review - Future of Sustainability

The Future of Sustainability
edited by Marco Keiner
HC 79 .E5 F878 2006

This collection of essays questions the success and possible future of the sustainability movement. Several authors examine the definitions and applications of sustainability to date, one going so far as to assert that sustainability alone is not enough. A second group of authors address challenges that the world faces to achieving sustainability, including growth, development, and urbanization, the tensions between local and global economies, and human rights. Finally, the largest section offers some new ideas and approaches to making sustainability more widespread and effective.

Book Review - Water

Water: A Natural History
Alice Outwater
GB 701 .O88 1996

This is an interesting book. Outwater focuses on the role that water, particularly waterways, play in American history. Her book divides this history into two broad eras--one in which humans began interacting with the natural system and a later period in which human engineering reconfigured the way that they interacted with water. The first part of the book examines human-water relationships in different ecosystems, including rivers, forests, grasslands and plains. The second part of the book focuses on human engineering feats including dams, aqueducts, and indoor plumbing. Throughout the book, Outwater suggests that human interference with water ecosystems has had negative consequences, certainly on the water resources themselves, but also on the plants and creatures that rely on these habitats.