Saturday, April 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Decision Maker by Dennis Bakke


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Who makes the important decisions in your organization? Strategy, product development, budgeting, compensation—such key decisions typically are made by company leaders. That’s what bosses are for, right? But maybe the boss isn’t the best person to make the call.

That’s the conclusion Dennis Bakke came to, and he used it to build AES into a Fortune 200 global power company with 27,000 people in 27 countries. He used it again to create Imagine Schools, the largest non-profit charter-school network in the U.S.

As a student at Harvard Business School, Bakke made hundreds of decisions using the case-study method. He realized two things: decision-making is the best way to develop people; and that shouldn't stop at business school. So Bakke spread decision-making throughout his organizations, fully engaging people at all levels. Today, Bakke has given thousands of people the freedom and responsibility to make decisions that matter.

In The Decision Maker, a leadership fable loosely based on Bakke's experience, the New York Times bestselling author shows us how giving decisions to the people closest to the action can transform any organization.

The idea is simple.

The results are powerful.

When leaders put real control into the hands of their people, they tap incalculable potential. The Decision Maker, destined to be a business classic, holds the key to unlocking the potential of every person in your organization.


What would happen within an organization if the employees were empowered to make important decisions?  Dennis Bakke explores this idea with a business fable, The Decision Maker.  If you're used to working within an extremely hierarchical organization, the results may surprise you.  Sure it's fiction, but the message is clear, powerful and undeniable.

Would decisions be made faster? Yes.
Would employees be happier and more engaged? Yes.
Would shifting to this process be a little scary (with lots of learning opportunities along the way)? Yes!
Would the entire organization crumble and fall apart?  NO!

The Decision Maker is a MUST-READ for anyone in management.  It only takes a couple of hours to read, so you don't have the excuse that you don't have time to read it.  Think of it this way, the health and future of your organization may depend on it, so what do you have to lose?  

(The staff at Buffer highly recommend this book.  If you're on Pinterest and you enjoy business books, follow the Buffer Books Board for ongoing reading recommendations:  They do pin more than just business books, but I've found a lot of great business and personal development books on their Board.)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Shelter by Jung Yun


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

You can never know what goes on behind closed doors.

One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of the Year (Selected by Edan Lepucki) 
Now BuzzFeed's #1 Most Buzzed About Book of 2016

Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family’s future.

A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town’s most exclusive neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage―private tutors, expensive hobbies―but they never showed him kindness. Kyung can hardly bear to see them now, much less ask for their help. Yet when an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes, and he’s compelled to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves living under the same roof. Tensions quickly mount as Kyung’s proximity to his parents forces old feelings of guilt and anger to the surface, along with a terrible and persistent question: how can he ever be a good husband, father, and son when he never knew affection as a child?

As Shelter veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. Shelter is a masterfully crafted debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one's family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.


When an old friend of mine announced on Facebook a few months ago that his wife wrote a book and  it was going to be published in March, I quickly added it to my "to read" list.  I got even more excited to read it when I started seeing it everywhere -- ads on Goodreads, posts by the New York Times.  I've never met Jung Yun, but I felt a connection to her through her husband and was so thrilled for her.  Writing a book takes a lot of hard work, and getting a work of fiction traditionally published is something to be extremely proud of! Congratulations Jung Yun!

Shelter is about Kyung Cho, a 36-year-old Korean American, and his family -- his wealthy parents who came to the United States when he was just a young boy, his American wife and their four-year-old son.  Kyung and his wife find themselves in a financial crisis, reluctantly considering going to his parents for help, when a violent crime suddenly interrupts their lives.  The situation brings them all together and tears them all apart at the same time. I was absolutely blown away by this book!

Shelter touches eloquently on so many complicated subjects -- interracial marriage, domestic violence, the impact of violent crime, religion, financial security, love and relationships (and probably several others that I'm missing!).  The story is thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and absolutely beautiful!  I highly recommend it.  My only word of advice is to make sure you have plenty of time in your schedule when you start reading it because as soon as you start you won't want to put it down.

Monday, April 18, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: How Would You Move Mount Fuji? by William Poundstone


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

For years, Microsoft and other high-tech companies have been posing riddles and logic puzzles like these in their notoriously grueling job interviews. Now "puzzle interviews" have become a hot new trend in hiring. From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, employers are using tough and tricky questions to gauge job candidates' intelligence, imagination, and problem-solving ability -- qualities needed to survive in today's hypercompetitive global marketplace. For the first time, William Poundstone reveals the toughest questions used at Microsoft and other Fortune 500 companies -- and supplies the answers. He traces the rise and controversial fall of employer-mandated IQ tests, the peculiar obsessions of Bill Gates (who plays jigsaw puzzles as a competitive sport), the sadistic mind games of Wall Street (which reportedly led one job seeker to smash a forty-third-story window), and the bizarre excesses of today's hiring managers (who may start off your interview with a box of Legos or a game of virtual Russian roulette). How Would You Move Mount Fuji? is an indispensable book for anyone in business. Managers seeking the most talented employees will learn to incorporate puzzle interviews in their search for the top candidates. Job seekers will discover how to tackle even the most brain-busting questions, and gain the advantage that could win the job of a lifetime. And anyone who has ever dreamed of going up against the best minds in business may discover that these puzzles are simply a lot of fun. Why are beer cans tapered on the end, anyway?


How Would You Move Mount Fuji? was published in 2004 so it may not be as relevant now as it was then for someone trying to get an inside scoop on Microsoft's interview process.  I would imagine it would still be helpful, though, for someone interviewing at Microsoft (or Google or a similar company) to understand how the interview process might go. No one knows the exact questions they will be asked during an interview, and half the battle seems to be getting your head in the right mindset so you can think through the response, even if the question doesn't have an exact right answer (i.e. how many piano tuners are there in the world?).

Other people who might enjoy this book would be those who enjoy logic puzzles.  I really enjoyed reading the questions, thinking through them and then reading the answers.  They can be great conversation pieces for the right audience.

Also, people who interview others for employment might enjoy reading about different interview styles and thinking about how those different styles may (or may not) work in their own environment. Personally, I think the puzzle style interview is cruel and would weed out a lot of people who aren't verbal processors. That doesn't mean they wouldn't be capable of thinking creatively.  Whether or not one agrees with the style, How Would You Move Mount Fuji? is a thought-provoking read for HR folks, interviewers and managers.

Friday, April 8, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

A New York Times bestseller, Three Wishes is the funny, heartwarming and completely charming first novel from Liane Moriarty, also the author of #1 New York Times bestsellers The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies.

Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle, beautiful thirty-three-year-old triplets, seem to attract attention everywhere they go. Together, laughter, drama, and mayhem seem to follow them. But apart, each is dealing with her own share of ups and downs. Lyn has organized her life into one big checklist, Cat has just learned a startling secret about her marriage, and Gemma, who bolts every time a relationship hits the six-month mark, holds out hope for lasting love. In this wise, witty, and hilarious novel, we follow the Kettle sisters through their tumultuous thirty-third year as they deal with sibling rivalry and secrets, revelations and relationships, unfaithful husbands and unthinkable decisions, and the fabulous, frustrating life of forever being part of a trio.


Wow! Liane Moriarty can weave together a really great story.  This was my first experience with her work, but now I can't wait to read more of her books.

The Kettle sisters are triplets, but they each couldn't be more different from one another.  Lyn is the career woman with the picture perfect life.  Cat is the pessimist who is dying to have a baby when her marriage takes an unexpected turn for the worst.  And Gemma is the free spirit who doesn't commit to anything.  The story begins with an explosive event during their 34th birthday celebration and then leads the reader back in time to figure out how they got to that moment.

The story is a roller coaster of beauty and sadness and love and humor.  It's the kind of book that any woman could identify with in some way.  I highly recommend it!

BOOK REVIEW: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.


Four members of the Blackwood family mysteriously die one evening. They are survived by Mary Katherine "Merricat" who was sent to her room without supper that night, her sister Constance and their Uncle Julian. Constance had been accused of poisoning the family and the surviving family members were outcasts in the community ever since. One day their cousin Charles arrives out of the blue and life as they know it changes forever.

I don't know why but this cover kept calling to me for weeks until I finally picked up this book. It's a short book, just 150 pages or so, and the story is captivating.  The reading "flow" was a little bit of a challenge for me, but that may just be Shirley Jackson's style that I'm not used to because I've never read anything else by her.  The story is mysterious and suspenseful.  I recommend it if you like dark fiction.