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Root Cause Analysis: A Tool for Total Quality Management

By Paul F. Wilson, Larry D. Dell and Gaylord F. Anderson, 1993, ASQC Quality Press, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Reviewed 19 Feb, 2005

Ok, so I skipped the textbook and went right to the workbook. Root Cause Analysis seeks answers to problems by looking at their root causes. It is a useful way of analyzing problems with sales, profits and pricing, especially pricing. Barrier analysis is “used to determine the real or actual cause of an event or unwanted condition”. It looks at both “hard” and “soft” causes that lead to problems–treating those problems more as a symptom–which they are. This workbook provides useful case studies with step by step instructions on how to fill in the forms.

The Best of Branding: Best Practices in Corporate Branding

By James R. Gregory, 2004, McrGraw Hill, New York, NY

Reviewed 19 Feb, 2005

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of corporate branding programs–having read this book, however, I’ve changed my mind. I’m not a fan of lousy corporate branding programs. This book is a terrific primer on how to do it right–even in a BTB environment. There are plenty of anecdotes and case studies that show both how to do it right and how to do it wrong. If you are spending money on “image” advertising–this is a must read.

Beyond Selling Value: A Proven Process to Avoid the Vendor Trap

By Mark Shonka and Dan Kosch, 2002, Dearborn Trade Books, Chicago, IL

Reviewed 19 Feb, 2005

Selling value is all about getting salespeople to move beyond the purchasing agent to the decision maker in their sales process. This is a book that provides some good “rules of the relationship” in how to get the decision maker, how to get the information and do your homework in preparation for a call.

How to Grow When Markets Don’t

By Adrian Slywotzky and Richard Wise, 2003 Warner Business Books, New York, NY

Reviewed 28 Jan, 2005

The best way to avoid commoditization of anything is to look to your customers for peripheral product and services opportunities to redefine your business. This book provides both a good process and numerous examples of companies that have found this to be abetter way and driven superior results.

Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right

By Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, 2004, Crown Business, New York, NY

Reviewed 17 Dec, 2004

In this follow-up book to their recent hit Execution, the authors once again exhort readers to get rid of the blinders and develop better understandings of what is going on both inside and outside of their companies. Success today is all about business savvy. Getting it takes an in-depth understanding of both the internal realities of the business and the external realities of markets and competitors. Ignore those realities, and managers will relegate their operations to the scrap heap of business also-rans.

Competing in a Service Economy

By Anders Gustafson and Michael D. Johnson, 2003, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA

Reviewed 17 Dec, 2004

As more products and services become commoditized, high-value solutions that are co-created with customers are the key to competitive advantage. The problem is that services and solutions are fundamentally different than products. Companies must have far more frequent and meaningful dialog with their customers about what they value to get it right. The authors lay out a number of practical tools for attacking what can seem like a squishy, esoteric challenge. Companies that rise to this challenge will be the new value and market leaders. As the authors put it, “Competitive forces continue to push to provide customers with more than just product value. Increasingly it’s service value, solutions, and experiences that differentiate competitors.” We couldn’t agree more.

The Flight of the Buffalo–Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead

By James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer, 1993, Warner Books, NY, NY.

Reviewed 18 Oct, 2004

Leadership is all about making people more effective through systems, processes and behaviors. Unfortunately, most leaders do exactly the opposite things that need to be done to make that happen. This book is an effective primer for senior managers of both small and large organizations on how to first, become more effective leaders and second, to make their people more effective. There are not only big-picture lessons, but lots of little tricks that come from the author’s many years of experience and learnings.

The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers

By C. K. Prahald & Venkat Ramaswamy, 2004, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA

Reviewed 18 Oct, 2004

At most companies, “customer intimacy” is more rhetoric than fact. To turn the wish into a reality, managers need to adopt sophisticated approaches to both understand customers and implement programs which do a better job of meeting their needs. This text sets the standard for “customer centric organizations. It also identifies the opportunity and effect for adopting these types of programs in BTB organizations.

The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services

By Paul Dunn and Ron Baker, 2003, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey

Reviewed 18 Oct, 2004

This book is all about how professional service firms can become more customer focused. It is a blend of deep history, theory and practice with numerous examples of how big and small professional services firms can improve their top and bottom line by following “Baker’s Law”: bad customers drive out good customers.

The Trusted Advisor

By David H. Maister, Charles H. Green & Robert M. Galford, 2000, The Free Press

Reviewed 24 Sep, 2004

To build great relationships with customers requires trust. The things we do to create trust are sometimes the exact opposite of the things we need to do to close an order at the end of the month. This book provides excellent insight into how to develop better relationships with customers. A word of warning: not all customers wanttrusting relationships with suppliers.

Sprout: Four Steps to Sales Success

By Alan Vengel & Greg Wright, 2004, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA

Reviewed 24 Sep, 2004

Ok, a book that connects selling with gardening might leave us all skeptical but the fact is that Vengel and Wright offer some good tips that salespeople can use to improve their performance and how they feel about their jobs. You might call this book: successful selling: framing for success. How salespeople think about the things they do can lead to greater success. Cold calling is the process of seeding–and not all seeds sprout quickly. A quick read and a valuable one if you apply some of their simple lessons.

The Delta Project: Discovering New Sources of Profitability in a Networked Economy

By Arnoldo C. Hax & Dean L. Wilde II, 2001, Palgrave, NY, NY

Reviewed 24 Sep, 2004

I will be the first to agree that there are too many “strategy models” out there. This book does provide a great way to look at levels of customer integration in driving business strategy, how to benchmark, drive channels and a host of other structural issues that need to be considered. Where The Value Discipline suggests being able and capable of dealing with price, value and loyal customers, this books provides an in-depth model for the product focus required for price buyers, the total solution approach for dealing with value buyers and a system lock-in approach for dealing with relationship buyers.

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

By Patrick Lencioni, 2000, Jossey-Bass Publishing, San Francisco, CA.

Reviewed 24 Sep, 2004

Good organizations begin with good leadership teams. Their focus should be on applying some of the basic principles in this book that lead to “healthy” organizations. To quote Lencioni “A Healthy organization is one that has less politics and confusion, higher morale and productivity, lower unwanted turnover and lower recruiting costs than an unhealthy one. Too many times, senior managers push their respective organizations in directions that are conflicting other parts of the firm. The results are often devastating. Lencioni presents four very simple rules of engagement for senior leadership teams to drive superior results.

Priceless: Turning Ordinary Products into Extraordinary Experiences

By LaSalle, Diana & Terry A. Britton, 2003, Harvard Business School Press

Reviewed 24 Aug, 2004

While this book is primarily directed at B to C products it gives the B to B marketer a good way to conceptualize the customer experience. The framework presented provides a solid check list of possibilities to be a hero or a villan to customers.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

By Patrick Lencioni, 2002

Reviewed 24 Aug, 2004

Senior managers who are not well connected and trusting of their peers unleash devastating politics and misdirection into organizations. In these environments, strategies are impossible and implementation is a hodge podge of silos and conflicting goals. Lencioni presents five simple principles to guide team goals and behaviors–it really should be this simple!