I frequently get asked to write book reviews on my blog and I almost always decline. But I had a couple of books on my “must read” list that I managed to get to over a recent vacation, and was sufficiently impressed that I decided to provide short reviews, even though the authors had not requested them!
A Must for Any IT Leader Trying to Elevate the Business Value of Technology
To be frank, I approached “Technical Impact: Making Your Information Technology Effective, And Keeping It That Way” by Al Kuebler, with some trepidation! I’ve read many books by successful CIO’s that somehow fall short of their promise. Not surprising, really, that the competencies demanded for success in the CIO suite do not necessarily translate into the competencies needed to write a really helpful, readable book about IT leadership. But this one did not disappoint at all!
First, Al is a great story teller! He has a rich experience, going back to roles in IT operations, through programming, systems programming, IT management, CIO and management consulting. He’s learned many powerful lessons in each of these roles, and is able to share these lessons through interesting and entertaining stories. Real life situations that anyone in IT can relate to make for great drama and a helpful backdrop against which to draw out challenges, tensions and leadership lessons.
The book is structured and organized to be approached in any sequence that makes sense to the reader. It contains a “Book Map” that outlines areas of interest, such as “Aligning Expectations”, “Best Practices”, “Careers”, “Innovation”, and so on. Under each area of interest are typical questions the reader might be looking to answer, with Chapter references. I still approached the book in a more traditional and linear fashion because I was not looking at any particular area of interest, and I did not want to miss any of the many nuggets the book offered, but I appreciate how useful the Book Map concept could be to someone dealing with real fires they wanted to focus on at a point in time.
I’ve never been a CIO, but I’ve consulted for over 20 years to hundreds of CIO’s in some of the largest and most successful companies in the world (and many that were not doing so well!) and I can attest that Al’s advice is pertinent, valuable and broadly applicable. He’s pragmatic and drills quickly to root causes. He brings a great balance of “quick fix” ideas that buy you time, with longer term approaches for continuous improvement. I very much appreciated the ways Al makes politics real and accessible—something that new IT leaders often struggle with.
I’m generally suspicious about advice that divides the world into ‘two kinds of people’—I find life far more complex and nuanced, so when I came to the chapter that distinguishes between what Al calls “performers” and “operators” I was skeptical. But I actually found Al’s treatment of this material to be valid and quite helpful.
Originally published in 2010, with revisions in 2011 and 2012, this book will have a long life—most of the issues are perennial, and will be applicable across industries, countries and cultures.
Well done, Al! And thank you for taking the time to create such a useful, readable and even entertaining resource!
A Must for Any Business Relationship Manager (or Any Manager Who Recognizes the Importance of Relationships)
“Power Relationships: 26 Irrefutable Laws for Building Extraordinary Relationships” by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas was the second on my vacation reading list, and I glad that it was! I’ve added it to my recommended reading for people taking my Business Relationship Management training courses and the Business Relationship Management Professional certification exam.
Just like Al’s book reviewed above, Andrew’s and Jerold’s book is packed with great storytelling! Organized into 26 chapters, each describing a ‘relationship law’ plus a section on ways to apply the 26 laws in a variety of situations, each chapter begins with a story. Each story is entertaining and illuminating and sets up one of the relationship laws in a clear and compelling way.
Great Insights on Applying the Laws!
Each chapter concludes with ideas on how to put the law into practice. I found these ideas very helpful and actionable. They make sense—the kinds of things you know you should be doing, but often don’t, or don’t do them as consistently as you should.
A Handbook for Business Relationship Management!
In many ways, this book could be thought of as a handbook for Business Relationship Management (though it is not intended as such as is much more broadly applicable). I found many of the application ideas hit the common traps that the novice Business Relationship Manager falls into. Here’s one example from the Twenty-Second Law, “Become part of your clients’ growth and profits and they’ll never get enough of you.”:
Think about it. If your plumber calls you up and suggests you have lunch to discuss the latest joint-soldering techniques, you would probably decline.