Monday, August 31, 2009

Six Sigma Pricing

Authors: ManMohan S. Sodhi and Navdeep S. Sodhi
Published: 2008
Publisher: Pearson Education
This book is very relevant for the product companies. Product companies set a list price for their products. However they also allow their sales team to offer discounts on the list price to their customers within a certain limits. But often it so happens that the sales force offer heavier discounts than what is allowed for due to various reasons for e.g. to meet their sales target, to keep their customers happy etc. However this adversely affects the revenue and profits of the company.
In this book the authors describe a very practical and pragmatic approach of using Six Sigma methodology to improve the pricing operations and increase the bottom line. They have very well supplemented it by discussing a real-life case study. This case study is a lesson on how to strike a right balance between generating revenue and profits and keeping all the stakeholders (especially the sales team and the customer ) happy.
Good introduction to pricing operations and Six Sigma methodology has also been provided for novices in this area. This would help them to understand the contents of the book better. However this book does not claim to provide a very comprehensive treatment of Six Sigma. Only what is needed in the context of pricing operation has been described.
I found this book quite useful and got very good tips on running a Six Sigma project on pricing operations.
On the negative side the contents of the back cover jacket of the book has glaring spelling mistakes (at least around 10). And to add to that there is an errata sections correcting around another half a dozen mistakes. These mistakes in a book about using Six Sigma methods is difficult for me to digest !
But overall a very good book and I recommend it for every organizations whose profits dip due to ineffective pricing operations process.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Mars and Venus Collide

Author: John Gray
Published: 2008
Publisher: HarperElement 

Due to biological differences between men and women, they react to stress differently. If both the sexes appreciate and understand this fact, they can reduce conflicts between them and strengthen their relationship. This is the theme of this book. The author then goes on to describe why men and women fight with each other and gives some tips on how to resolve such fights.
An informative and interesting read. Now I understand why I sometimes get a feeling that my spouse nags me ! It is not her fault. Blame it on hormones !
The tips given are high on formality and rather mechanical. Not sure whether it can be effectively applied in Indian context.
Those who have read , John Gray's previous book - Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus - may find this book repetitive.
A couple of trivia on the author John Gray (courtesy Wikipedia !) .
One - he lived as a Hindu monk for nine years in Switzerland under the influence of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Two - Ironically, he divorced his first wife Barbara De Angelis who is also a self-help author writing on similar themes. Now are these two people writing the best sellers based on their personal experiences or whether it is a case of "Easy to Preach, Hard to Practice".

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Conflict Management in the Workplace

Authors: Shay McConnen;  Margaret McConnen
Published: 2008
Publisher: How To Books Ltd.

This is a very handy book on managing disagreements and conflicts that happen in the workplace. A very well structured book with lots of practical tips on how to develop trust and understanding among the parties involved in conflict. One of the better books on self-improvement books I have read in the recent times and I highly recommend it for all the people managers to read.

It has a very descriptive table of contents which I have reproduced below along with the key takeaways from each chapter. It will give you a good idea about the conflict management approach described in this book.


Language for conflict or for cooperation ?
Conflict wastes time and money

How the View Explains our Differences
This chapter recognizes that each of us has our unique window on the world, which is subjective, partial and likely to be distorted. This can explain why we are different from and often difficult for each other.
Key Takeaways:
  • Beware of expecting others to see what you see.
  • Don't argue with perception.
  • Rather than judge behavior, connect with needs.
  • Explore different perspectives for richer solutions.
2. Differences in Personality Types
The reader is introduced to the four basic personality types - Go-Getter, Carer, Analytical, Socializer - and typical sources of tension across the styles. The reader also discovers that strengths can be experienced as weaknesses.
Key Takeaways:
  • Difficult people are usually inflexible people.
  • It is OK to be different, it is not OK to dysfunction.
  • It is as if we are from different planets.

3. Fight the Difference or Celebrate it ?
Is conflict inevitable ? Can conflict be constructive? This chapter suggests that conflict comes more from the management of these differences than from the differences themselves. Understand why rows can spiral out of control.
Key Takeaways:
  • The differences don't have to get in the way.
  • Deal with causes not symptoms.
  • Why do you insist on me seeing what you see, when I don't ?
  • Reduce conflict by recognising the positive intention.
  • While differences explain conflict, it is arrogance that drives it.

4. Are you Building a Bridge or a Barrier ?
Explore the win-win and win-lose mindsets and the consequences of these approaches. Discover the language that fuels conflict and find out how 'you' and 'I' can become 'we'.
Key Takeaways:
  • There is nothing to be gained from attacking the other person and everything to lose.
  • You are OK but others may not see you as OK.
  • If you shoot from the hip, you could end up with a bullet in your foot.
  • Don't expect others to collaborate if you go on the attack.
  • Be partners, rather than opponents.
  • Fight the problem not the person.

5. Understand and Manage your Feelings
This chapter gives some practical ways to defuse your own anger and to manage the feelings of others. Know when to take time out.
Key Takeaways:
  • Unexpressed conflict is still conflict.
  • Anger can severely limit your choices.
  • Anger is fuelled by your thinking, your body and your language.
  • If both of you are yelling, no one is in charge.
  • Validate the feeling to keep rapport.
  • People who say sorry don't always forgive.
  • Listening is key to making the transformation from you against me to us against the problem.

6. Develop your Skills and Increase Your Choices
Discover the three key skills for managing conflict. Learn how to listen acceptingly, talk constructively and negotiate successfully. Also ways to disagree and keep rapport.
Key Takeaways:
  • Develop flexibility if you want to increase effectiveness.
  • Understand first, respond second.
  • Listening is judgment free.
  • 'Yes buts' indicate argument rather than listening.
  • Giving the solution is not always the answer.
  • Take turns in having equal 'air time'.
  • It's a pity we speak the same language, because we don't !
  • Listening gets you into the other person's view.
  • Listening makes a lot of sense.
  • Rather than create a one way street, drive on a communication highway, where ideas and feelings can pass freely in both directions.
  • 'Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.' Robert Benchley
  • Avoid character assassination.
  • Talk to the relevant person, not everyone else.
  • Talk future not past.
  • Your body is doing a lot of the talking!
  • Solution pointing rather than finger pointing.
  • Beware of the quick fix.
  • Agree before you disagree.
  • View objections as unfulfilled needs.
  • Not getting what you want can be a wonderful stroke of luck.
  • The most significant journey of your life may be to meet someone halfway.

7. Four Steps to Resolution
Do you want to manage differences in open and honest ways without conflict or argument ? This four-step model gives you the language and the processing for win-win. The 'steps' will reduce defensiveness, deepen understanding and create collaboration. Learn to deal with power plays.
Key Takeaways:
  • Four- Step Model
    • Step One: Attend to the other person first.
    • Step Two: Explore the need behind the want for both of you.
    • Step Three: Invite the other's solution
    • Step Four: Build for maximum win-win.
  • Beware the 'yes but....'
  • Justify if you want to start an argument, validate if you want to keep rapport.
  • Work on the relationship as well as the problems.
  • You will create conflict if you do not consider the needs of the other person.
  • Never give up on anybody. Miracles happen every day!
  • Ending a relationship can be an assertive option.
  • Different styles for different personalities.
  • Aim to be having a conversation rather than using a formula.
  • Check understanding when necessary. 'So what you are saying is...'
  • A good relationship requires mutual understanding and acceptance, not always agreement.

8. Preventing Conflict
This chapter shows you how to nip conflict in the bud. Discover ways to deal with the irritations and minor tensions rather than let them fester.
Key Takeaways:
  • People usually do the best they can with the resources they have.
  • I see you as wrong. You see me as wrong. We are both right. That's not logical but it is psychological.
  • You are responsible for what you think.
  • You are responsible for what you say.
  • You are responsible for what you do.
  • Silence is not always golden.
  • 'You may not be perfect, neither am I, so we could suit each other admirably.' Alexander Pope

The appendices include a questionnaire to help you discover your prefered conflict management style and a collection of other tools to enable you to turn difficult situations around.

There is also a case study showing symptoms of organizational conflict - low morale and a high turnover of staff. The study demonstrates how using the processes and language of the 'steps' enables staffa nd management to listen, understand and work towards a mutual solution.