In this volume, one of a series of anthologies of articles previously published in the Harvard Business Review, the reader is provided with eight brilliant analyses of how to establish and then nourish innovative thinking enterprise-wide. No brief commentary such as this can do full justice to the rigor and substance of these articles. It remains for each reader to examine the list to identify those subjects which are of greatest interest to her or him. My own opinion is that all of the articles are first-rate. One of this volume's greatest benefits is derived from sharing a variety of perspectives provided by a number of different authorities on the same general subject. In this instance, "culture and change."
Readers will especially appreciate the provision of an executive summary which precedes each article. They facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key points which - presumably - careful readers either underline or highlight. Also of interest is the "About the Contributors" section which includes suggestions of other sources to consult. All but one of the4 eight articles appeared in HBR in 2001. Here are questions which suggest key issues to which their autghors respond:
When and why do good teams go wrong? (Paul F. Levy)
How to change a "culture of face time"? (Bill Munck)
What is the "radical reason" people won't change? (Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey)
How can radical change be achieved "the quiet way"? (Debra E. Meyerson)
Why do good companies go bad? (Donald L. Sull, 1999)
How to transform a conservative company "one laugh at a time"? (Katherine M. Hudson,)
When does a culture need a makeover? (Carol Lavin Bernick)
How to conquer a culture of indecision? (Ram Charan)
I was especially interested in reading Charan's article, written prior to his co-authorship with Larry Bossidy of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (2002) And Profitable Growth Is Everyone's Business: 10 Tools You Can Use Monday Morning (2004). In this article and in his later work, Charan asserts that the single greatest cause of organizational underperformance is the failure to execute. Of course, reasons for that failure vary from one organization to another. However, Charan's rigorous research (especially his rigorous examination of GE's culture under Jack Welch's leadership) revealed which specific actions which leaders can take to conquer a culture off indecision. To those with a special interest in this common problem, I highly recommend two books by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton: The Knowing-Doing: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action (2000) and Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management (2006).
Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out other "Harvard Business Review on..." volumes such as those on Change, Effective Communication, Innovation, Knowledge Management, and Organizational Learning. Also Robert Kaplan and David Norton's The Strategy-Focused Organization and James O'Toole's Leading Change as well as The New American Workplace which O'Toole co-authored with Edward E. Lawler III, David Maister's Practice What You Preach, Dick Grote's Forced Ranking, Brian Becker, Mark Huselid, and David Ulrich's The HR Scorecard, and The Work Force Scorecard which Becker and Huselid co-authored with Richard Beatty.