The title alone will make you want to read it!

Leave a comment

Title: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace

Author: Gordon MacKenzie

Copyright: 1996, Penguin

ISBN: 0-670-87983-5

Pages: 224

Date completed: 7/8/11

Every organization, whether a giant corporation or a non-profit creates policies and procedures to make everything operate more efficiently.  But, if you’ve ever been a part of an organization, you are probably familiar with the red-tape that seems to thrive in these environments.  “You need a new mouse for your computer?  Ok.  Just fill out this 3-page form and send it to your manager for approval.  Once you get that approval, you’ll need to fill out this form to submit the approved 3-page form.  From there, it will go through the procurement department where it will be evaluated and either approved or denied.  If approved, then you can expect about a two week delivery period.  If it is denied, you will need to get someone who is a VP or above to submit an exception form.”

Or, you could run over to Walmart during your lunch break and spend the $10 to get it today.

The cultures created by a world of policies and procedures is the giant hairball.  We’ve all been part of a giant hairball at some point in our lives.  If you can’t think of one, think of our education system.  If you went to school, you were part of a giant hairball.

MacKenzie’s book is about the ways that you can step outside of the hairball and march to your own beat.  Be creative.  There is more than one corporate-policy-dictated way of skinning a cat.  Use creativity to solve problems that you encounter.  Not creative enough to come up with creative solutions?  No problem.  Pick up Orbiting the Giant Hairball and let Gordon MacKenzie inspire that creativity you’ve been suppressing for so long.


Book 16 – Meeting Hell

1 Comment

Title: Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable

Date Completed: 12/15/09

Author(s): Patrick Lencioni

Copyright: 2004, Jossey-Bass

# pages: 257

Genre: Business

For me, this is one of those ‘right book, right time’ books.  It is exactly what I needed at this point.  I work in a department that does not have strong leadership, and I found a lot of the answers about why in this book.

Although this is a business book, it is written in the format of a story so that you can learn the lessons of the book while being entertained at the same time.  The premise is that a successful video game software company has very low morale.  The reason for the morale problem stems back to the fact that the leadership team does an ineffective job of prioritizing issues and addressing them head on.  The reason that they are ineffective is because they don’t properly run their meetings.

You know how you read a Dilbert cartoon and feel like the author must be hiding out in your office getting all of him material from your company?  That is how I felt about this book.  He hits the problem with meetings right on the nose.  They are too long, unproductive, and nobody enjoys them.  Yet, for most of us, they are the way we spend the majority of our time.

He offers two key ideas for fixing meetings.  The way that he explains his ideas is simple, effective, and universally understood by all of us.  He uses tv and movies to explain why meetings don’t work.

First, we typically try to cover many different topics within one meeting.  We try to cover the immediate, the short term, and the more strategic topics of our business all in a single weekly ‘staff’ meeting.  He draws a parallel to trying to combine Headline News, a sitcom, and a mini-series all into a single program.  It just wouldn’t work.  If you turn on headline news, you have an expectation that you will watch for five minutes, get the highlights, and move on to the next thing.  With a sitcom, you expect to commit a little more time, and become involved with your characters, but you know you will see them again next week, so you only expect to get the current events in their lives.  And, of course, a mini-series is a much larger commitment where you become deeply involved in the story, which can span a lifetime or more.

Meetings should be the same.  The purpose of the meeting should either be a quick overview of current issues, tactical discussions about short term issues or projects, and longer, strategic discussions where a single topic is dissected to uncover the details, coming at it from all angles.  We can’t expect to cover all of these in a single meeting.  Yet, most of corporate America does just that.

Second, he discusses the fact that meetings need to have conflict.  Without it, they are not interesting.  He isn’t saying that you have to have an argument to have a good meeting.  He is saying that everyone needs to be engaged in the discussion and it is important to get all of the different opinions out on the table.  Without doing this, people begin to abdicate their decision-making powers to the ‘person in charge’ and then the spiral begins.  If I don’t have any input into the decision, then why do I even need to be at this meeting?

I think everyone stands to learn something from this book.  It is a pretty quick read and the format keeps it interesting.