Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results by Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris, and Robert Morison

Analytics at WorkAnalytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results
By Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris, and Robert Morison
Harvard Business Press, 2010

[powerpress: http://gsbm-med.pepperdine.edu/gbr/audio/winter2011/Mallette-book.mp3]

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5 stars: Stop what you're doing and read this book!This book is about improving performance in key business domains using data and analysis. Analytics at Work by Davenport, Harris, and Morison is built in-part on the first two authors’ previous book (Competing on Analytics, Harvard Business Press, 2007) but this one is more of a how-to book— oriented to fact-based decision making. The authors show that analytics can start as simply as identifying key activities, creating simple metrics, reporting on them on a regular basis, and acting on the patterns that emerge. (p. 4)

The authors provide a five-element model with five stages of transitions (or levels of analytical focus) in the first half of the book. The five elements have the useful mnemonic of DELTA. D-Data: you can’t be analytical without data. E-Enterprise: you need to be integrated across organizational silos. L-Leadership: they determine how analytical an organization will be. T-Target: apply the analytical efforts where they will do the most good. A-Analysts: finding, developing, managing, and deploying analysts. Each of these elements are taken through the five stages of transition. Stage One is analytically impaired; Two is localize analytics; Three is analytical aspirations; Four is analytical companies; and Stage Five is analytical competitors. Table A1 in the appendix is a 5×5 matrix that nicely summarizes the five elements in their five stages.

To the authors’ credit, they included a section entitled When Are Analytics Not Practical? (p. 10) and suggest that there are times when judgment should overtake analysis. The second half of the book is devoted to organizations staying analytical, especially in Stages Three to Five. This focuses on three hallmarks of analytical organizations: Analytics are embedded, they continually reinforce a culture of analytical decisions, and continually review its assumptions and analytical models.

This little book (6 by 9.5 inches, 214 pages) is a great introduction to the subject, and leads the reader to want to learn more. It is easy to read, is a good introduction to the subject, and provides a formula for implementing analytics. The book has 11 chapters, a very nice index, plenty of examples from the authors’ experiences, and is sprinkled with several tables and figures. I was especially enamored with the chapter on how to manage analysts! I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about the subject, a process for thinking about analytics, and taking their company or organization to the next level.

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Great Leaders are Great Decision-Makers

Great leaders understand how to balance emotion with reason and make decisions that positively impact themselves, their employees, their customers and stakeholders, and their organizations.

[powerpress: http://gsbm-med.pepperdine.edu/gbr/audio/fall2010/Kase-decisions.mp3]

Decisions, decisionsWhen we think of what makes someone a great leader, one characteristic that comes to mind is decisiveness. We do not envision successful leaders standing around appearing unclear and uncertain. Instead, we view them as people who are able to quickly arrive at their decisions and communicate the goals to others.

Leaders often have to make challenging decisions, such as what direction to move their company in; whether to keep an employee, reposition them or let them go; whether or not to share “bad news” with stockholders, and many other such challenges.

Great leaders understand how to balance emotion with reason and make decisions that positively impact themselves, their employees, their customers and stakeholders, and their organizations. Making good decisions in difficult situations is no small feat because these types of decisions involve change, uncertainty, anxiety, stress, and sometimes the unfavorable reactions of others.

Great leaders also know when to move quickly and proceed with the available information, versus when to take more time and gather additional information. When leaders opt to pursue additional information or avenues, they must also know when to stop. While a large amount of data may be desirable in a perfect world, the data gathering process can utilize too much time, and the vast amount of data can also be paralyzing and take attention away from the big picture or key data points.

This article will explore three crucial qualities that great leaders must develop to become great decision-makers: emotional intelligence, the ability to handle uncertainty, and the ability to weigh evidence with intuition. The article concludes with a step-by-step process employing these characteristics to arrive at the best possible decision given the many variables that can and will come into play.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage your emotions and those of others, is one of the most important qualities a leader must possess. According to the authors of Primal Leadership, a leader’s emotions are contagious. This is why resonant leadership is so important—a leader’s mood will resonate with others and set the tone for the emotional climate in an organization.[1]

Emotional intelligence consists of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Self-awareness is the foundation for all aspects of emotional intelligence. It involves being able to accurately assess yourself. Before you can change, you must be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Self-management entails the ability to understand and control your emotions, adapt to change, and adopt an optimistic outlook. Social awareness is similar to self-awareness but the focus is external and involves understanding the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others, as well as how to relate to other people. Relationship management is crucial for great leadership and includes qualities such as being influential and inspirational and developing others.

Here we will focus on one of the core components of self-management: emotional self-control. When you have developed this skill, you will recognize your emotions, be influenced by them, but not blinded by them, and be able to calmly and clearly express your decisions to others even when you experience intense emotions within yourself and from others.

Emotional Self-Control and Decision Making

Imagine that you were presented with a critical high-stakes situation with a significant potential downside and you needed to make a decision and take action right away. You would likely have a significant emotional reaction, including feelings such as anxiety, fear, or anger. Unfortunately emotions such as these cloud our ability to make good decisions. When we get into the emotional part of our brain, our innate reaction is to protect ourselves. We get an adrenaline rush or flight-or-fight response, and short-term survival is the immediate goal. As you can imagine, being in this state is not particularly conducive to making strategic, long-term decisions. This is why emotional self-control is so important. Great leaders are aware of their emotional state and are able to manage intense emotions so they can make smart decisions.

Reigning in Emotions for Strategic Decisions

In order to make strategic, long-term decisions, we must know how to bring down the intense emotional reaction so that we can engage a different part of our brains (the prefrontal cortex), which is responsible for looking at the big picture and long-term planning. Paradoxically, the way to do this is to accept and allow whatever emotional reaction we are having and choose to focus on the facts as much as possible.[2]

Trying not to experience an emotion is like trying to pull a rollercoaster backwards as it heads down the hill. It takes a lot of effort, which ultimately backfires and we feel worse. Instead, simply jump on board and ride it out. The intensity of the emotions will quickly pass and then you can think logically. The goal, however, is not to take feelings out of the decision-making process. It is simply to keep them from taking over and losing emotional self-control.

Managing Uncertainty and Choices

Decision mapWhy is it so difficult to make decisions? Perhaps it is because the variables and the outcomes are often uncertain. We do not like uncertainty. Uncertainty creates discomfort and analysis paralysis. We try to analyze the situation from every angle to alleviate the sense of uncertainty. These efforts are often futile and waste valuable time and energy because so often we must make decisions in the face of uncertainty.

The Lengths We Go to Avoid Uncertainty

In a 1992 study conducted by cognitive scientists Amos Tversky and Eldar Shafir, college students were asked whether they would purchase a great deal on a trip to Hawaii over their holiday break. They were told that they would receive the grade on their most important exam before they had to decide. Of those who were told that they passed the exam, 57 percent said they’d go for the trip. Interestingly, a similar percentage (54 percent) of those who were told that they failed also said they’d go.

When researchers designed uncertainty into the mix, results changed dramatically. Students were told that they would not receive the exam grade for two days and that they could buy the trip now, pass on it now, or pay $5 to wait for two days until they received their grade. The majority of students (61 percent) said that they would wait. The first part of the study showed that students for the most part wanted to go if they passed or if they failed the exam, but here they were willing to pay to wait and find out their grade.

This study shows the lengths that we will go to avoid uncertainty. Students seemed to think that knowing their grade would help them make a good decision when in reality it would not make a difference in their decisions.

We are often paralyzed by uncertainty and end up basing our decisions on things that aren’t even related. Question your attempts to find certainty before making decisions because you may be seeking a false sense of security. Much like the aforementioned method to reign in negative emotions to achieve emotional self-control, acceptance is a crucial starting place. If we are able to accept the uncertainty rather than try to resolve it, we can focus our limited time, energy, and money on making the best decisions in the face of an uncertain outcome.

This does not mean that you should not bother to analyze a situation before making a decision. Various analyses can be helpful in providing the information necessary to make the best decisions in the situation. The key is to know when what you don’t know is important, and if so, how to go about gathering the necessary information to resolve the uncertainty. If what you don’t know is not important, then the next step is to accept the uncertainty and proceed in spite of it.

If, however, you find yourself getting stuck or investing too much time or other resources in the analyses, ask yourself if the uncertainty that you are attempting to resolve is truly resolveable. If not, it would be best to accept the uncertainty and move on.

Limit Your Choices

One of the decision-making mistakes we commonly make is to give ourselves a lot of options. We figure that if we consider every possible alternative, we will have better choices and make the best decision. Sometimes we do this exhaustive search as a way to resolve uncertainty. We assume that if we go through everything, no stone will be left unturned and there will be no uncertainty. The problem is that we are likely to get overwhelmed and make no decision.

In 2000, Sheena Iyengar of Columbia Business School and Mark Lepper, chairman of Stanford’s psychology department, conducted a study in which two tasting displays of gourmet jams were set up in an upscale supermarket. They had 24 jams set up for tasting in one display, and just six jams in the other. They found that more people were attracted to the table with 24, an equal number tasted at both tables, and a huge difference in purchasing resulted: only 3 percent of those who had tasted at the table with 24 jams bought a jar, whereas 30 percent of those who had tasted at the table with six jams bought a jar.[4]

This study and various others like it show that when there are more than five or six options, people have a more difficult time deciding and often opt not to make a decision. To help yourself and others effectively and efficiently make decisions, limit your options. Keep options fewer than five and you will find it much easier to make a decision.

Trusting Your Intuition

Excellent leaders often say that they go with their gut to make decisions. They are able to trust themselves and their expertise and not get stuck in the cycle of over-thinking. The more you know about a subject, the more reliable your intuition will be. Make yourself an expert in your field and your intuition will be your best guide.

Intuition Leads to Satisfaction with Decisions

Participants in a study conducted by Timothy D. Wilson and his colleagues at the University of Virginia and the University of Pittsburgh were asked to choose a piece of art to hang in their homes. Half of them were asked to think rationally about their choice, and the other half were instructed to go with their gut. Those who went with their feelings rather than their analysis were happier with their selection. We can rationalize our way into anything, but our first impressions often tell us how we really feel.[5]

How to Hear Your Intuition

You may have heard intuition described as a nagging little voice inside you. It typically speaks softly rather than screaming out at you. Unfortunately in our non-stop, busy, technology-filled worlds, it can be easy to not hear our intuition. It is always speaking, but we are often not listening.

Hone your skills at listening to your intuition by building some form of meditative practice into your daily life. It doesn’t have to be actual meditation; it can be a few moments of reflection, a warm bath, a walk with your dog, and so on. We are typically so bombarded with information all day (television, radio, Internet, cell phone, Blackberry…) that we miss out on opportunities to notice ourselves thinking and feeling. To hear your intuition you must have some time when you’re a human being, not a human doing. Build periods of quiet into your life and you will be surprised at what you hear.

Decide Your Way to Great Decisions

Great decision making takes practice. As you now know, this process requires a certain level of comfort with discomfort. We could play it safe and defer important decisions to others, spend hours and hours analyzing and agonizing over every option, or we could accept the level of risk and go for it. Many people are afraid of making a bad decision or the wrong decision. We can only do our best with the information we have available to us at the time. There is typically not a right or a wrong answer. In the worst-case scenario, however, you select the wrong option. Even if you choose an option that reveals itself to be inferior in the short-term, you will learn that you can handle the outcome and make the best of it. You may even find unexpected opportunities by going down the “wrong” path.

Practice this process using the following steps:

  1. Decide whether to take action quickly or gather additional information. If you decide to gather additional information, create parameters to determine what information is essential and when to cease your information-gathering process.
  2. Be aware of the emotions that come up as you proceed with your decision. Accept the emotions and allow them to guide you without controlling you.
  3. Recognize the uncertainty elements in the situation and decide how much of the uncertainty needs resolution. Know that most situations cannot be calculated with complete certainty and, even though it may be uncomfortable, it is often necessary to accept the uncertainty and proceed.
  4. Allow yourself to hear your intuition. Do not over-think important decisions because you may talk yourself into something that goes against your instincts and experience.
  5. Seek out opportunities to thoughtfully and proactively make challenging decisions. Recognize that even “negative” outcomes may be better than you expect, and gain confidence in your ability to make great decisions.

Be a leader in your personal life and career by committing to make difficult decisions in a timely manner. The best way you can inspire others to change is by making changes yourself. Practice this process and become a confident leader of yourself and others. Just think of all of the time and energy you will save in the process, and how great you will feel as you remain calm, trust yourself, and make great decisions.


[1] Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, and Annie McKee, Primal Leadership, (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004).

[2] Daniel H. Barlow, Anxiety and Its Disorders, Second Edition: The Nature and Treatment of Anxiety and Panic, (New York: The Guilford Press, 2004).

[3] Amos Tversky and Eldar Shafir, “The Disjunction Effect in Choice under Uncertainty,” Psychological Science, 3 (1992): 205–209.

[4] Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, “When Choice Is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79 (2000): 995–1106.

[5] Timothy D. Wilson et al., “Introspecting about Reasons Can Reduce Post-Choice Satisfaction,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19 (1993): 331–339.

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Chaotics by Philip Kotler and John A. Caslione

Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence

By Philip Kotler and John A. Caslione
AMACOM, 2009

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4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating materialIn Chaotics, Kotler and Caslione argue for a “disciplined approach” to business decision making as opposed to relying on gut instinct or conventional wisdom. According to the authors, “responsive, robust, and resilient” businesses constantly look for the “weak signals” of turbulence and are proactive in constructing, rehearsing, and revising various chaos scenarios and their preferred response strategies.

The book offers numerous examples of companies that have thrived and faltered in turbulent times because of the decisions they made. They walk the reader through their definition of turbulence (“unpredictable and swift changes in an organization’s external or internal environments”), bad responses to turbulence, the business thought process behind their Chaotics Model, and specific recommendations for each major business department (with an entire chapter dedicated to marketing).

In the first chapter, the authors go a bit overboard with their characterization of terrorism and the financial crisis in order to frighten the reader into believing that we are entering “The Age of Turbulence,” in which business environments are significantly more chaotic than in the past. However, the true value of the book is in pressing readers to change their mindset with respect to business decisions, to never expect normality nor take it for granted, to look for opportunity when others are fearful, and to ingrain this approach to business into the company culture.

While reading, I was reminded of the following statement by Steve Wynn, chairman of Wynn Resorts, at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2009:

And what are we to do when there’s a downturn? Throw the baby out? Burn the place down? Fire everybody? Destabilize the entire workforce? Change our service levels? Stop keeping a promise that we’ve been breaking our neck to get the public to trust for years? What a self-destructive thing that would be! How illogical and immature is that? That’s exactly what happens in most businesses. A bunch of dimwits get in a room and start cutting costs.

Chaotics is an excellent read for anyone who does not want to be one of the dimwits.

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Future Savvy by Adam Gordon

Future Savvy: Identifying Trends to Make Better Decisions, Manage Uncertainty, and Profit from Change

By Adam Gordon
AMACOM, 2008

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5 stars: Stop what you're doing and read this book!In today’s volatile economic times, being able to predict with some confidence where the forces of change will take a business in an industry can be a distinct advantage. Many forecasts are being made and most are predicting bad times in 2009. But being overly cynical and dismissing negative forecasts or becoming completely reliant on negative predictions is also risky. The theme of Adam Gordon’s Future Savvy is to maintain balance by assessing predictions from a variety of different viewpoints.

The author distinguishes good and bad forecasts by questioning the consensus before buying into it. Poor forecasts assume that current dominant perceptions, needs, wants, concerns, and aspirations will still be dominant in the future. Based on his experiences, Gordon presents a long list of important questions that managers should be prepared to ask themselves in order to identify on which forecasts they should rely to run their businesses. He encourages readers to look for those that stretch current thinking or break through “the official view of the future.” Stretch thinking considers both change drivers behind the predicted movements as well as blocking forces that cause delays and can even stop change from occurring.

Future Savvy thoroughly examines forecasts based on new technologies, such as clean-air, high-mileage vehicles. Regarding such vehicles, Gordon argues that a good prediction will address whether demand will be sustained when gasoline and oil prices go down. He makes the case that there should be a balance between technology pull and market push.

A partial list of the reasons why a prediction could be wrong include the following: numbers used are not solid, key statistical caveats are not acknowledged, missing cases are not accounted for, data is improperly used, media bias creeps in, assumptions are not questioned, change is identified when none exists, and foresight experts have interpretive biases. There is even the chance that a forecast may fail to recognize that some problems, coined “wicked problems,” have no solutions. Analyses of current crises and failed predictions, as evidenced in the housing and agricultural commodities markets, should be of special interest to managers.

Gordon provides a practical set of points to consider when assessing forecasts and predictions. In the end, managers should be able to determine if they are future optimists or future pessimists. Unlike flipping a coin both are acceptable, balanced responses.

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The Book Corner

Featured in this issue:

The Triple Bottom Line

By Andrew W. Savitz with Karl Weber

Jossey-Bass, 2006

Recommended by Rick Hesse, DSc, Professor of Decision Sciences

I recommend The Triple Bottom Line for anyone interested in running or being part of a sustainable organization. The triple bottom line is a concept that emphasizes economic measurements, environmental impact, and social responsibility. Some have dubbed it Profit, People, Planet. This book gives many good illustrations of successful and unsuccessful company strategies and carefully explains each part of the triple bottom line phenomenon.

Focusing solely on profits can backfire if a company drains its resources, both natural and human. Over 2200 CEOs have signed the UN Global Compact, which encompasses human rights, labor standards, environment, and anti-corruption, so if your company is not involved, your competitors certainly are. Furthermore, such endorsement does not affect just CEOs; every manager and business function needs to be involved. Approximately 3000 companies around the world voluntarily publish reports on environmental, social, or sustainability issues. As proof that it pays to be socially and environmentally conscious, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and the FTSE4 Good Indexes of these companies have also outperformed various market indices.

The authors provide a good historical perspective of companies and the factors that are pressing modern companies to be more socially responsible. In a freer, more interdependent and wired world, companies have more opportunities and threats than ever before.

Sustainability is not about being social do-gooders or philanthropists. It is a matter of finding the commonality between doing good and running businesses well. The book examines initiatives such as Toyota’s hybrid automobiles, GE’s Ecomagination projects, and PepsiCo’s development of drinks for healthier lifestyles. Such companies are consciously seeking to integrate profitable alternatives with social benefits.

The book examines three ways to sustain businesses:

  1. Protect the business: Reduce the risk of harm to customers, employees, and the community.
  2. Run the business: Reduce costs and the amount of resources needed, including energy and unsustainable inputs. For example, by raising salaries 3 to 5 percent over the industry average, Wegeman’s grocery has cut its labor costs by 13 percent of revenues, resulting in provision of unemployment insurance, lower turnover, and reduction of lost productivity.
  3. Grow the business: Find new markets, new products and services and improve reputation and market share. Listening carefully, even to critics, and learning to partner with your business community and suppliers can pay big benefits, as Wal-Mart is slowly learning.

Savitz and Weber also do a credible job of looking at the backlash and criticism of the concept of sustainability. They acknowledge that companies do not always start with a problem-free environment, so the authors therefore devote time to showing how companies have turned problems into opportunities. For example, Nike finally turned around its problems related to using child labor, and the fast-food industry is currently facing the rising public concern about obesity linked to consumption of convenience foods.

Finally, this book explains how to launch your own business’s sustainability program and manage stakeholder engagement. Developing measures and reporting results completes the cycle of creating a culture of sustainability. In short, I highly recommend this book.

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A Leader’s Legacy

By James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Jossey-Bass, 2006

Recommended by Ann E. Feyerherm, PhD, Director of MSOD Program

The primary organizing scheme of this book is built around the question “What difference do I want to make?” This question requires not only self-knowledge but also a deep regard for others. Legacies are about the world which others step into when a leader steps away. The provocative essays are organized by four themes; Significance, Relationships, Aspirations and Courage.

This modest volume is full of thoughtful advice for new and experienced leaders. Even though you could argue with some of the claims (for example, it is better to be liked than respected), there will be invitations to examine your own leadership style and philosophies. It might even be reassuring—the “tough truth” about leading is that “sometimes you hurt others and sometimes you get hurt.” The authors are not “in your face” about your own leadership style, rather they are suggestive of behaviors and beliefs worth pondering. There are no “skill building” exercises or practice frameworks. There are several stories of the authors or respected peers and leaders to jog your own memories.

A useful mindset while reading the book is one of curiosity. A journal by one’s side to jot down reactions and your own stories and learning would be a way to approach this book. It could also be a companion to any leadership development program; perhaps a chapter a week for conversation between members of a leadership team or a pair in a boss/subordinate role.

If you are a follower of Kouzes’ and Posner’s earlier works on leadership, you will note several of their themes echoed in this volume—the importance of trust, of forward-thinking, of listening to and speaking from the heart, of courage, and that leadership is everywhere, not just by virtue of title. These are themes worth hearing again, and cast in the light of leadership legacy, take on new meaning.

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L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon

By Leon Gorman

Harvard Business School Press, 2006

Recommended by Sam Farry, MBA, Adjunct Faculty of Applied Behavioral Science

It would be difficult to find a more relevant management topic than values based management. In the wake of HP, WorldCom and Enron, everyone is talking about ethics. Often treated in an overly simplistic manner, ethics is much more than merely “doing the right thing.” Values cut both broad and deep. They are connected to all aspects of an organization. You have to grow with and nurture them.

This book is a case study of L.L. Bean, of Freeport, Maine, whose core business is catalog sales, a company that has struggled with and been managed by explicit, straightforward values. An extremely successful company for nearly 100 years, Bean has addressed key issues and has consistently questioned and redefined itself in the face of needed change with regard to establishing an authentic corporate identity, building and explicating its brand, continuously improving service and value for customers, and maintaining and accelerating growth.

L.L. Bean formulated a set of values that has endured to the present time: honesty, self reliance, thrift, and love of the out-of-doors.

  • To sell fully tested, high quality products of the best functional value;
  • To provide superior and personal customer service backed by a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee;
  • To write honest, straightforward catalog and advertising copy that builds trust and mutual respect in customers;
  • To sell through a catalog channel that can reach a national market from Maine and its outdoor heritage.

The book’s author, Leon Gorman, the grandson of L.L. Bean and the company’s longtime president, provides an intimate view of the interdependence of a key leader and his company as they strive continuously to grow yet hue to standards that simultaneously respect all key stakeholders: customers, employees, vendors, owners, and community alike. In his commitment to maintaining the company’s integrity, purpose and growth, Gorman’s development as a leader progressed from central entrepreneur to professional manager to a team-oriented strategist who helped spell out a “platform for growth” to facilitate management succession.

This book spells out how the relevance of trends such as Theory Y, Total Quality Management (TQM), Process Engineering, Structural Redesign, and Strategic Management have emerged at L.L. Bean from the ongoing fluctuating needs of the organization derived from measurable data and from the insights of its president and employees in their attempts to gain the most from major change initiatives.

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Taking Advice: How Leaders Get Good Counsel and Use It Wisely

By Dan Ciampa

Harvard Business School Press, 2006

Recommended by Jeffrey Schieberl, JD, MBA, Practitioner Faculty of Business Law

Dan Ciampa’s new book addresses the assertion that how to accept advice and utilize it effectively has not been given the attention that it warrants. He has been on the giving advice side of the giving/receiving advice equation for quite some time. His experience has been that there are very few “smart clients”—that is, clients that understand how to utilize and optimize the benefits of advice that they received. Mr. Ciampa clearly states that the “core premise” of his book is that contemporary leaders or those “in charge” must be “shrewder and more discerning advice takers.” It is his view that this is important especially during times of change.

In the Preface the author tracks the history of management consulting including its transformation from a profession to a business. He explores why even experienced leaders need advice as well as what he refers to as the “help paradox.” His assessment of leaders who seek out help is truly refreshing in its candor. Inadequacies as to the advice given correlates well with the acknowledgment that those who are giving advice must do a better job.

Fundamentally, Ciampa considers advice taking as a skill. The author offers the reader an intriguing, viable framework for taking advice. In addition, he considers the types of advice and kinds of advisors in a practical understandable manner. The attitudes and behaviors of effective advice takers are also discussed. Lastly, the book characterizes listening as the “master skill” and explores its key success factors.

I found this book to be thoughtfully organized, concise and substantive. It offers invaluable insight for contemporary leaders relative to the skill of seeking, taking, assessing, and applying advice.

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The Kindness Revolution: The Company-Wide Culture Shift That Inspires Phenomenal Customer Service

By Ed Horrell

AMACOM, 2006

Recommended by William Bleuel, PhD, Professor of Decision Sciences

I really liked this book. I could relate to almost all of the examples in the book and the author’s approach to customer service. The two aspects of the book that were most appealing to me were (1) the examples of real companies who have demonstrated remarkable success with much of the success founded on excellence in customer service and (2) the perspective of bringing kindness into the business environment.

I was so taken by the concept that I thought I would go out of my way to offer some extra kindness to everyone I dealt with for a short period of time to see if kindness really made a difference. It did—not a surprise! The results of my very brief and non-statistically valid experiment were both a personal sense of well being while treating every one with kindness and receiving a very warm response in return in every case.

The book starts out with a discussion of owning customers and the value that comes from owning customers. The author makes the point that when you own a customer they are not vulnerable to competition. The key ingredient to losing customers, according to the author, is indifference. On the other hand, the key to owning customers is superior customer service.

Seeking companies that have superior customer service, the author found that all of them are well known and that each practice kindness in one way or another. The conclusions that the author reached are that superior company performance is achieved by superior customer service and that superior customer service begins at the top of the organization.

In line with Pepperdine’s approach to a values-oriented curriculum for management, the author concludes “that values play the most significant role in determining how employees and customers are treated in any organization.”

The book is an easy read with 185 pages and can be completed in an evening of casual reading.

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