April 2001

On the road again

By Rosabeth Moss Kanter
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Travel just isn’t what it used to be. Between airport delays, traffic snarls and the hotel that forgot your wake-up call, the Road Warrior’s life is one hassle after another. It doesn’t have to be that way. This month, some on-the-road advice for business travelers. At last, someone has written a quick, sensible book of lists, reminders and advice for the occasional traveler, seasoned pro or neophyte. Organize Your Business Travel: Simple Routines for Managing Your Work When You’re Out of the Office by Ronni Eisenberg with Kate Kelly is a compact solution to many of the dilemmas, questions and organizational conundrums the confused business traveler encounters every time he steps out of the office.

Travel is a major headache for many professionals these days, but in the global corporate environment, it’s a necessary part of doing business. And for a successful trip, being organized is the best preparation. From who’s watching the kids to what kind of luggage works best for toting that new business casual wardrobe, organizing travel takes mental preparation. Organize Your Business Travel addresses an amazing number of these issues with rapid ease. It even covers car travel and how to organize your business life in an automobile.

Eisenberg has thought of everything. I tucked this book under my arm on a recent trip, and from mail management to childcare, I conquered the major obstacles keeping me from getting to my plane on time. With her encouragement I took a long, hard look at my travel gear and bought a new briefcase. Even my luggage was repacked with some practical advice from Eisenberg. I reassessed my need and understanding of the Palm Pilot and learned how to use one. If I can change my ways, anyone can. Organize Your Business Travel makes a great travel companion for consultants, or anyone else who travels frequently, for business or pleasure.

Down time is a major impediment to business travel. Airport delays, layovers and unscheduled time between appointments eat up productive work time. A new audiobook, Extreme Management: What They Teach at Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program by Mark Stevens provides an excellent alternative to wasted minutes. The audio outlines the key components of Harvard Business School’s elite Advanced Management Program (AMP), a nine-week course whose alums include CEOs and CFOs of many Fortune 500 companies. At its heart, Extreme Management is about excellence in leadership, uncovering financial and strategic tactics of the world’s best companies in amusing and informative anecdotal stories and interviews with AMP alums.

Stevens, president of a global marketing firm and author of several books on financial figures of the ’80s and ’90s, identifies the lessons and insights that faculty and students of the AMP found most compelling and sets out to condense what is ordinarily a nine-week, $44,000 regimen into a crash course that can be absorbed in the space of an airplane flight. The two-tape audio provides a simplified but not bare bones outline of the book and an easy way to pass travel time. While AMP raises mid-level managers to elite status, Extreme Management prompts the average business traveler to re-evaluate the office status quo. That’s hitting two birds downtime and leadership with one stone.

Speaking of travel-friendly business reading, The Power of Six Sigma: An Inspiring Tale of How Six Sigma Is Transforming the Way We Work by Subir Chowdhury is a quick book, easily finished on one airplane flight, that explains in a fictional format the principles behind the business initiative, Six Sigma.

For the uninitiated, Six Sigma is the latest fad in management strategy. Embraced by Allied Signal, GE and other major corporations, Six Sigma is a top-down approach used to develop quality in products, empower employees and fatten the corporate bottom line. The focus, experts say, is to eliminate waste, mistakes and inevitable rework by following a scientific structure to achieve results. Following on the heels of ISO 9000 initiatives and Total Quality Management, many are skeptical of Six Sigma’s charms.

The Power of Six Sigma is an antidote to the skepticism. Chowdhury explains in simple, interesting fashion the basic principles behind the initiative. Anyone who wonders why businesses don’t seem to respond to what customers want should read this intriguing little book, and as always, anyone in business should understand the latest management initiatives. Improvement is the name of the game in any business, and Six Sigma is another way to approach the game of business and win at it.

Have time in the airport to sink your teeth into something a little meatier? e-Volve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow by Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, is a witty, intelligent look at the business culture created by emerging Internet companies and the resulting changes in the playing field for traditional businesses and other digital wannabes. Smart, clever and right on target, e-Volve is a valuable look at the coming age in the workplace.

When you open this book and see the song Kanter wrote to celebrate the e-volution, you may check the book jacket (as I did) to make sure this is a Harvard Business School title. But Evolve! The Song illustrates one main corollary of this tale.

Why are you so silent, has the cat got your tongue? Tech talk is what the older folks can learn from the young.

But the Net generation must absorb from the past, enduring values of service, how to build things that last. Yes, this is a big book to carry in your briefcase, but an excellent place to visit and revisit the trends of the New Economy and the cultural changes that economy has wrought. Often a flight is the only chance to catch up on reading and thinking about new ideas and business trends. The next time your airline announces Flight 207 has been delayed for an hour while we track down our flight crew, don’t get angry . . . look at it as an opportunity to expand your horizons.

Briefly noted The Thing in the Bushes: Turning Organizational Blind Spots into Competitive Advantage by Kevin Graham Ford and James P. Osterhaus. The thing in the bushes is a metaphor for core personnel problems that undermine the strategic advantage of great companies. Ford and Osterhaus, a consultant and a psychologist respectively, develop relational principles that help firms hunt down and destroy the thing. Even if your business doesn’t have a lurking bogeyman, The Thing is an interesting study in organizational behavior and its consequences for developing strategic plans.

Seven Power Strategies for Building Customer Loyalty by Paul R. Timm, Ph.D. A lot of companies flirt but never get married to customer service, says Timm. These days one of the main thrusts of Six Sigma initiatives is to provide customer-focused improvements in quality and service. Seven Power Strategies fills in the missing blanks with a seven-step employee empowerment process that helps build customer retention. Timm provides evaluation exercises and short, pointed stories to teach customer strategy step-by-step and gives the impetus for companies to walk down that wedding aisle.

Sharon Secor is a Nashville-based business writer.


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e-Volve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow

e-Volve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow

By Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Harvard Business School Press
ISBN 9781578514397

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