A viable tool for business leaders who accept change as part of growth.

Why Organizations Struggle So Hard to Improve So Little

OVERCOMING ORGANIZATIONAL IMMATURITY

Business professionals present a refreshing approach for organizational change.

Some companies seem to be in a perpetual state of “improvement,” with thousands of dollars spent on consultants and a constant avalanche of new policies. Often, there’s little positive change, but it’s time to stop blaming leadership for an organization’s shortcomings, say Klubeck, Langthorne and Padgett. While that sentiment may be radical at first glance (and it will no doubt catch managers’ attention), the authors’ straightforward, comprehensible presentation is actually based on common sense. Instead of pointing fingers, business leaders are urged to examine the cultural climates of their organizations to determine if they’re indeed prepared for change. As the authors say, organizations often rush to fix problems with broad, companywide directives that are regularly doomed to fail. Instead, small “targeted initiatives”—with input from employees excited by the results—can spread positive attitudes. Therefore, the authors say, one of the most important steps to successful organizational change is understanding the differences between a mature company and an immature one. Part 1 of the book is devoted to this assessment, though the concept is expanded throughout the book with examples that will leave many readers nodding their heads: “You know you’re in an immature organization when one or more senior leaders regularly circumvent processes (and no one challenges them).” A self-assessment maturity quiz and an organizational health survey are included in the book’s appendix, as are other hands-on guides, and readers are urged to use the maturity assessments as tools for discussion before making any change. The authors’ presentation is concept-driven except for a few anecdotes, such as a short chapter “interlude,” which strives for a lighthearted tone but ends up a bit superfluous. Parts 2 through 4 delve into the identification of more mature-business behaviors and a discussion of some familiar terms, like strategic planning and effective communication. Later, a compelling case is made for personality over résumé content when hiring: “Mature organizations care more about talent, attitude, and personality than skill set. Skills and knowledge can be attained and enhanced easily…compared to developing a person’s personality. Personality traits, such as values, morals, a sense of humor, and the ability to relate to and interact with others, are present in youth and refined over a lifetime.” The text also includes charts, graphs and encouraging words, but readers shouldn’t expect motivational directives here; rather, the book’s clear-eyed practicality is its strength.

A viable tool for business leaders who accept change as part of growth.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0313380228

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more