Book Review June 2008
Moving Up: Dr. Sujay’s Ten Steps to Turning Your Life Around and Getting To the Top!
By Suzan Johnson Cook
Doubleday, May 2008
224 pp., $19.95
Suzan Johnson Cook, D.Min., founder and a senior pastor at the Believers Christian Fellowship, New York City, affirms in the Introduction of her latest self-help, spiritual guide: “So this book is for all who want to go to a new place in their lives in the arenas of career, family, education, work, recreation, relationships, purpose and meaning.” In her second book devoted to achieving a more spiritually fulfilling life and in her personable and inviting style, she includes biblical anecdotes and shares stories from her life that will encourage you to “Stand up for who you are,” “Give voice to what needs to happen,” and “Choose to be joyful.”
The Breakthrough Imperative: How the Best Managers Get Outstanding Results
Author: Mark Gottfredson and Steve Schaubert
Publisher: Collins, 2008
Reviewed by Soroya Brantley
You are on the fast track to becoming a general manager or even a CEO. Once there, you can finally stop to breathe. Not so fast! About 40 percent of CEOs on average last less than two years in their position. “The brutal reality is that executives have less time than ever to prove their worth,” BusinessWeek reported in 2007.
In their book The Breakthrough Imperative: How the Best Managers get Outstanding Results, Mark Gottfredson and Steve Schaubert use their combined experience as partner and senior partner, respectively, at Bain & Company Inc., a global management consulting firm, to examine these job-tenure statistics and recommend ways to counter their trend. The first chapter, “The Two Keys to Breakthrough Success,” compares various businesses to determine why some initiatives work and others do not. The authors argue that successful CEOs appear to rely on two keys: They “have a deep understanding of the fundamental laws of business” and they “identify and follow a clear path to performance improvement.” Neither key is enough by itself. “It is the combination that enables strong execution and leads to success,” the authors contend.
The book cites four laws as the foundation for success. Law 1, “Costs and Prices Always Decline,” emphasizes the importance of the so-called experience curve. “The experience curve takes a commonsense observation — the more often a task is done, the less it should cost — and gives it a mathematical expression, hence predictive power,” the book says. A successful leader is able to harness this predictive power and use it effectively.
Law 2, “Competitive Position Determines Your Options,” stipulates that successful management often involves making choices and decisions designed to improve performance. It states that before decisions are made, the leader must know where the company stands in relation to its competitors. Armed with this knowledge, plus the necessary statistics and information that give a full picture of the company’s position, the manager is better able to assess how specific actions would be advantageous to the company and disadvantageous to competitors.
Law 3 is “Customers and Profit Pools Don’t Stand Still.” An effective manager must be able to anticipate and prepare for shifts in consumer wants. A great manager also would recognize shifts in the company’s “profit pool” (the total profit made from every participant in the company’s value chain, including providers of products or services) early enough so that new profit pools can be created.
Law 4 is “Simplicity Gets Results.” A company with too many products and options drives up costs and confuses its customers, the authors argue. It is too expensive and downright impossible to be everything to everybody, so concentrate on being the best in your niche, they advise.
The authors use real companies as case studies of how different management styles produce different outcomes. Bottom line: The Breakthrough Imperative: How the Best Managers Get Outstanding Results is full of information that, if properly utilized, could help senior executives quickly prove their worth and prolong their tenure.
The Skull Cage Key
By Michel Marriot
Bolden/Agate, March 2008
350 pp., $15
The year is 2041 and Harlem has undergone a re-Renaissance, one that is muddled with a sinister element: headhunters are terrorizing the community to harvest peoples’ most joyous memories. Armstrong Black becomes the prime suspect when his lover’s body is found decapitated in a hotel room; and Reagan, an ex-cop, is called back to his beat to find out who or what is behind the peddling of the new addictive drug called Hedz. Michel Marriot, a former reporter for The New York Times, describes his debut novel as “social sci-fi.” Marriot is an imaginative and skillful enough writer to pull this off this erotic thriller that touches on the ever-present issues of class, drug use, politics and race.
—Clarence V. Reynolds