Monday, September 5, 2011

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni

"Extremely well designed model for team building. My preferred team development book for its impact!"

This is a typical Lencioni-style book, where most of the text is dedicated to a so-called fable, which illustrates both the problem and the solution the author wants to address. If you like the style, then you'll have a lot of reward because it's really easy and quick to read, to understand and to apply.
In this work, the author proposes a model to foster team work quality in several steps starting from the foundations of team work up to full focus on result.

Model / Concepts
The goal is to face the typical dysfunctions of a team from the bottom to build up a strong, cohesive team working together towards the result.
  1. Absence of trust - This is the first dysfunction, where people tend to hide their weaknesses and mistakes. To address that, one has to build a culture, where being open and human is natural and seen as positive.
  2. Fear of conflict - Debate and constructive conflict are the base of successful and committed decisions. A team has therefore to fight against the fear of conflict, which creates unconstructive artificial harmony.
  3. Lack of commitment - After constructive conflict, it is important to enforce clarity and closure thus avoiding ambiguity. Clear decisions help getting to commitment.
  4. Avoidance of accountability - When trust, positive debate, and commitment are achieved, a leader has to support accountability, which helps keeping high standards.
  5. Inattention to result - Finally, the team can concentrate on result and avoid destructive status and ego issues.
Well, the impact is huge!
It's quite easy to explain and promote the concepts.
Trust, constructive conflict and commitment, are also easy to apply and have a clear impact in the way the team works. Of course, you have to address all the fears both on a team level and for every team member on a one-on-one level, but then you can have substantial improvements in short time.
Avoidance of accountability is the most challenging dysfunction to address. Only people that trust each other and that don't fear conflict will have the courage to make their subordinate, pair or even superior accountable. This is a never ending work that brings also important benefits, but with more effort.

  • rating Amazon - 4.4/5.0 (346 reviews)
  • my rating - 5.0/5.0
  • fun factor - 4.5/5.0
  • simplicity - 5.0/5.0
  • impact - 5.0/5.0

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to Write Great Copy for the Web, Donna Spencer

"A good, compact book to help you writing text for your web site."

If you have a blog for your friends, a web site for the family pictures, or a list of the latest MP3 readers, it may be too early to read this book.
If you are in a big company with a marketing department and a lot of advertising suppliers, this book is too basics.
However, if you are in a small company, where you have to start being more professional, but without the resources of a big one, this is a good, compact book helping you writing text, which will have more impact on your web pages.

Model / Concepts
The book doesn't really have a model, but a very good structure covering:
  1. The difference between the web and the other media (newspapers, revues, etc.).
  2. Some basic "secrets" about page titles, headings, lists, quotes, etc.
  3. Some important style hints (writing to the reader, use authentic voice, etc.).
  4. Other suggestions about how to be persuasive with your text.
Again, as explained in the summary, if writing and proof reading is not enough anymore because you are getting more and more professional / industrial, then it is very helpful to read this book before collaborating with the suppliers helping you creating your new web site.

  • rating Amazon - N/A (0 reviews)
  • my rating - 4.0/5.0
  • fun factor - 3.5/5.0
  • simplicity - 4.5/5.0
  • impact - 4.0/5.0

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting Things Done, David Allen

"A masterpiece for personal productivity in the modern working environment."

Getting Things Done has become a best seller and is today the most important reference in the "getting things done" topic. This is not by chance!
The book starts by saying that nowadays, we have more and more demands and insufficient resources to fulfill them. The goal is thus to capture anything you consider unfinished out of your mind in a trusted system. Then, the idea is to first define the problem, the success, and the next action toward success. Finally, you do and follow up.

The goal is not to manage your “stuff”, but to manage your actions needed to bring your “stuff” to success:
  1.  Collect – In the system out of the head; Few collection buckets; Empty buckets regularly.
  2.  Process – Actionable?
No, then set it  as trash, maybe later, or potentially useful;
Yes, then define action, do if < 2min, delegate, or defer & track.
  3.  Organize – Actions on calendar, next action by context (calls, computer, office, etc.), and waiting for.
  4.  Review – Weekly gather & process new “stuff”, review calendar, update action lists.
  5.  Do – Choose by context (where am I?), time available, energy available, priority.

Huge, really!
There are two key points in Allen's approach that are highly powerful:
  • Get “stuff” out of your head in a trusted system.
  • Think and act in term of actions toward success not in term of problems.
The book gives all the necessary material to do that, and it works. Once you have no stuff in your head, and you know that with your system you can correctly handle it, your life is much easier. Additionally, the concept of action thinking/acting is extremely powerfull to face problems in a positive and simple way.
This has played an important role in my working life when my company has moved from the "few friends" start-up phase to the "leader & team" structure. Before, I was still involved in some development, and I had quite long slots to perform relatively few different tasks. As leader of a small team, I had to perform more and more small tasks, and there David's model has been very helpful.

  • rating Amazon - 4.4/5.0 (641 reviews)
  • my rating - 4.5/5.0
  • fun factor - 4.0/5.0
  • simplicity - 4.0/5.0
  • impact - 5.0/5.0